For Debbie Blevins, the executive director of Helping Hands of Greenup County, the Saturday before Mother’s Day each May is like having a second Christmas Day. For that, Helping Hands and scores of other nonprofit agencies throughout the country, Guam and the Virgin Islands can thank the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Always on the second Saturday in May, the 2lst annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive will be this Saturday. As always, area residents are asked to help feed the hungry by leaving a few items of nonperishable food or canned goods near their mailboxes on Saturday. Letter carriers will pick up the donated food during their regular routes on Saturday and immediately begin the process of distributing the food items to agencies that serve the needy in this area.
Blevins said postal workers in Greenup County picked up 6,368 pounds of food during the 2012 Stamp Out Hunger drive. All of it was distributed to the needy through Helping Hands, the only nonprofit agency in Greenup County that exclusively serves needy families.
All the food collected in Greenup County stays in the county, Blevins said. While the mail picked up in Russell is taken directly to the Ashland Post Office, the food picked up in Russell is returned to Greenup County, she said.
In Boyd County, River Cities Harvest oversees the distribution of the donated food to nonprofit agencies. Under a system designed by the late Jim Fout, founder of River Cities Harvest, agencies are assigned to show up at the distribution point at a specific time and the letter carriers take the food they have picked up to the distribution center, where it is immediately distributed by River Cities Harvest volunteers to a non-nonprofit agency. With only a few rare exceptions, more than 95 percent of the food left near mailboxes on Saturday morning is in the hands of the nonprofit agency that will distribute it to needy families by midafternoon.
In 2012, letter carriers in Boyd County picked up more than 18,000 pounds of food that was distributed to Ashland Community Kitchen, the Salvation Army Citadel in Ashland, the Shelter of Hope, Safe Harbor, the Hillcrest-Bruce United Methodist Mission, the Cannonsburg-Trinity Community Food Bank and the First United Methodist Church Food Bank.
This will be the first major community food drive since Fout’s death, but Julia Vice, VISTA worker for River Cities Harvest, said they are using the system Fout put in place for Saturday’s distribution, and she is confident it will work well. Once again, residents of the Ashland Group Home are helping with the distribution Saturday as well as many volunteers, Vice said.
Letter carrier Crystal Martin is coordinating the Stamp Out Hunger food drive in Boyd County for the local chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Martin stressed that the timing of his food drive is critical as food banks and pantries often receive most of their donations during the Christmas holiday season.
“By springtime, many pantries are depleted, entering summer low on supplies at the same time many school lunch and breakfast programs are not available,” Martin said, adding that it is estimated than 50 million Americans — or about one in six — are unsure of where there next meal is coming from.
Martin said the Stamp Out Hunger drive is one the easiest ways people can help combat hunger in the United States. “You don’t have to go anywhere to participate. All you have to do is leave some food near your mail box. Postal workers will do the rest.”
While letter carriers in Boyd County take the donated food to a distribution point, the donated food is picked up at post offices by volunteers for Helping Hands. “They call us when they have food ready to be picked up,” Blevins said. “It will all be picked up Saturday for distribution.”
JOHN CANNON can be reached at email@example.com or at (606) 326-2649.