05/06/13 — Letter carriers to collect food for needy on Saturday

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Letter carriers to collect food for needy on Saturday

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 6, 2013 1:46 PM

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United States postal carrier Cliff Barker put bags of food in a hamper Friday morning at the post office on Cashwell Drive. Mail carriers will be collecting food for the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive that will be held Saturday.

On May 11, Wayne County's letter carriers want to see more than just a piece of mail or two in local mailboxes. They're hoping to find lots of nonperishable food -- which will be used to help the hungry.

The annual Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive has already gotten under way with donation boxes at both of Goldsboro's post offices.

Cliff Barker, letter carrier and this year's food drive coordinator, said the goal is to collect 14,000 pounds of food this year.

"We'll take any nonperishable food item," he said. "We can't take glass bottles."

He encouraged people to look at the food's expiration date and not donate it if it's too old.

This is how it works: May 11 you leave the food in your mailbox. When the letter carriers get back to the two post offices with the food, they will sort it, load it up on trucks, weigh it, then deliver it to seven local agencies that night. They are the Community Soup Kitchen, HDGC Community Crisis Center, Salvation Army, Shiloh Farm Ministry, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, United Church Ministries and Wayne Uplift and Domestic Violence shelter.

The letter carriers will be assisted by volunteers from these agencies, as well as some from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and even people on their routes who just heard about it and want to help.

"The agencies love the food drive," Barker said. "A lady with Shiloh Farm Ministry told me something that brought a tear to my eye. She said the kids there asked her, 'What did we do so good that we get all of this?'"

Barker said all of the food is not collected from mailboxes. Some of it comes from donations customers put in collection boxes at both post offices. In fact, people were already dropping off donations Thursday.

This is the 19th year that Wayne County has done the annual food drive.

"We do the food drive for the needy, for the people who need the food," Barker said. "I'm told by the agencies that May is the setup for the summer vacation for the kids who don't have the school lunches. Then there's people who just need it. So that's why we do it, to feed the hungry."

In past years, the letter carriers have picked up all kinds of food, from macaroni and cheese and tomato soup to baby food.

"We've gotten just about anything," Barker said. "We've even had dog food donated.

"We get maybe a can or two cans and sometimes we'll have a box of food sitting beside the mailbox. Sometimes we'll even have a note that the food is on the porch. We get it all kinds of ways."

Barker's first experience with the letter carriers food drive was in Dayton, Ohio.

"I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I walked up on this porch to deliver mail and there were four big paper bags of food. I didn't want to take their groceries. So I knocked on the door and asked if all that was for me. And they said yes."

Barker said the letter carriers are not asking for a lot from each household.

"If we got only one can of food per person per household and everybody did that, we would surpass our goal this year," he said.

Last year the drive netted 13,500 pounds of food.

But most people are happy to give what they can, Barker said.

"I was handing out fliers to some of the letter carriers one morning and they said people are asking when the drive is," he said. "They're saying they're ready to do it and want us to start doing it now."

Although taking the food out of the mailbox and storing it in their vehicle means more work for the letter carriers, they don't mind.

"It's fun," Barker said. "Once it starts and we start collecting the food, it turns into fun. Then we have a mailbox with no food and we're disappointed."