PRINCETON — The letter carriers in Princeton broke records on Saturday when they collected just under 32,000 pounds of food for the Bureau County Food Pantry.
The Princeton community pulled through and donated 31,908 pounds of food, which was well beyond the goal letter carriers were hoping to reach this year.
Princeton food drive coordinator Scott Maschek, who would have been happy to see 25,000 pounds of food, was humbled over the results.
“The need is huge; the goals were huge. All I can say is thanks to the community. The city of Princeton gets it,” he said.
The donated goods will be used for the second helpings program at the food pantry, which will kick-off in June. The program is meant for families with children who are home from school on summer break and need an extra helping to get them through the month.
While Bureau County Food Pantry Director Vanessa Hoffeditz was hoping to reach 35,000 pounds of food to stretch the second helpings program beyond the summer months, she said on Monday that she’s confident the food pantry will be able to offer second helpings to families until November.
This will be a huge help for the families at the end of summer when they are faced with expenses such as school and extra curricular fees, purchasing new school clothes and paying property taxes on homes. It will also help the families in need around the holidays.
Both Maschek and Hoffeditz offered their thanks to all the volunteers who helped make the drive successful.
“We can’t thank the community enough for what they’ve done,” Hoffeditz said.
Boy Scout Troop 1063 helped collect food, as did nine students from Princeton High School who were working for their service learning hours. Also Tommy Rose from WZOE and Princeton Police Chief Tom Root were a huge help in picking up the food, while letter carriers continued to deliver mail during the drive.
A big thanks also went to Sullivan’s Foods, which donated the plastic bags residents found in their mailbox just days before the drive. Hoffeditz said delivering bags to the residents serves as a good reminder to fill the bag and set it out for the letter carriers. Maschek said without the bags, the drive wouldn’t be as successful as it’s been in the last couple years.
Also, two local pizzerias donated pizzas to feed 35-40 volunteers on Saturday. Hoffeditz and Maschek both recognized The Italian and Pizza Hut for their willingness to donate lunch to the volunteers.
As Maschek plans to retire from the post office before next year’s drive, he’s thrilled to leave on a good note. This year’s drive collected the most pounds of food since Maschek began working with the drive in the ‘90s. Under his leadership over the years, the food pantry has received more than 197,000 pounds of food.
Hoffeditz said she’s really going to miss Maschek and his efforts and determination to make each food drive as successful as he could.
But while Maschek won’t be heading up the event next year, he said it’s very possible residents will still see him out and about helping collect donations next year.
“We’ll just keep on doing the best we can,” he said.
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Hall Township and Western Bureau County food pantries
Letter carriers and 28 volunteers collected more than two tons of food for Hall Township Food Pantry on Saturday.
"A special thank you to the Spring Valley Letter Carriers who distributed both paper bags and reminder cards last week in anticipation of the annual event. Their hard work paid off as we nearly doubled last year's totals," Director Jan Martin said.
The food collected during the drive will help the annual Second Helpings program, which will begin June 1. Pantry clients with school-aged children are allowed to shop twice a month during June, July and August, Martin said.
"While this is a great help for our clients, it greatly increases the amount of food needed at the pantry. Stamp Out Hunger collection is primarily used to support this program," she said.
How long will the food last? About 4,000 pounds of food goes quickly when 350 families are served a month — taking into consideration half of these families will come twice a month, according to Martin.
Western Bureau County Food Pantry
On the western edge of Bureau County, residents contributed about 470 pounds of food during the Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
Western Bureau County Food Pantry Director Mary Lanham said she was disappointed to only see half of what the community collected last year, but nonetheless it's more food than they had before.
"We're thrilled with what we have," she said.
Lanham said the community collected a lot of great staple items such as fruits, vegetables and soups that will help with the summer's Second Helpings program. Second Helpings allows families with children to visit the pantry a second time during the months of June, July and August.
This program helps keep students home on summer break fed while at home and not at school where they can take advantage of the free breakfast and lunch meals.
"The staple items will help us with not having to purchase what we usually do for that program, so I'm happy we have that," Lanham said.