ELYRIA — Letter carriers were hauling more than just their usual packages and mail across Lorain County on Saturday as they participated in the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
Picking up nonperishable items along their routes, city and rural carriers in Elyria collected about 18,000 pounds of food for the city’s Salvation Army, 716 Broad St.
In its 26th year, the national food drive, held the second Saturday in May, invites residents in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands to set out boxes or bags of items to be donated to their local food banks. Carriers collect these and bring them back to local pantries, where food is sorted and goes back to needy families in the communities it came from.
Dave Lozano, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 196 president, said it takes more than just the letter carriers to bring in the food for the pantry — it’s a joint effort between the letter carriers, rural carriers, clerks and management at the Elyria Post Office. And all of those groups come together to give back to their community.
“Each union branch collects, and the food stays right in the community,” Lozano said. “North Ridgeville has a community cupboard, we have the Salvation Army … each office provides for their community and it used to be that the food collected today would last the Salvation Army until Thanksgiving, but it’s not that way anymore. There’s more needy families, so they tend to run out.”
He said in an effort to get more donations next year to provide for those needy families, they are looking at getting a local supermarket to sponsor blue bags with the Stamp Out Hunger logo on them that residents can put their donations in. In the meantime, letter carriers still will pick up nonperishable items — sometimes carrying them on their backs to their cars.
“It does test you,” he said. Later, he added, “Letter carriers, they really enjoy it after it’s done. They enjoy seeing this (collection of food), they do.”
Sorting through the food trucked in were sophomores from Midview High School/Lorain County Joint Vocational School. The students, under the direction of Mathias Hauck, are part of a joint career exploration program offered by the JVS at Midview.
“The goal is to reach outside of ourselves, and these students are part of a career exploration program. It’s a career connections class through the JVS, so most of these are going to be vocational students next year, our future leaders,” Hauck said. “So the goal is to learn how to be a part of the community, serve, give back — all those wonderful things that everybody needs to do.”
One of the about 30 students volunteering, 16-year-old Logan Mayor, said he has a personal connection to the work.
“Me, personally, I went through a hard time where we didn’t have a lot of money and we relied heavily on the food banks,” Logan said. “… The community helped me, so I’m kind of giving back to the community myself.”
And for the Elyria Salvation Army’s Major Robert Sears, the program means being able to provide for the 300 to 400 families a week that use the organization’s food services, carrying the organization through September or October alongside purchases from the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“It means dollars and cents, it means food in people’s houses and it means just so much fun,” Sears said. “We’ve probably had close to 40 to 50 people volunteering here today, it’s just a nice opportunity to gather together and give back to the community.”