Mail carriers Stamp out Hunger

Collect food for agency

NILES — Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers 385 will spend May 13 not only delivering mail but collecting nonperishable food items for the 25th annual Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

Each year on the second Saturday in May, letter carriers from across the nation collect nonperishable food donations from customers for the effort. The donations then directly go to local food banks and pantries to provide food to residents, like those in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

The nationwide effort, coordinated by the National Association of Letter Carriers and U.S. Postal Service, has been underway in more than 10,000 cities for a quarter of a century. It is considered the largest one-day food drive in the United States and will celebrate 25 years this month.

Since 1993, when the national food drive began, letter carriers in every part of the country have worked with family members, friends and other postal co-workers to use one Saturday as a day to give something back to the communities that know and trust them.

In Niles, letter carriers will collect donations for Niles Community Services, an agency that benefits economically challenged families in Niles, McDonald and Weathersfield since 1923, feeding around 15,000 people each year.

NCS Director Jean Williams said that on May 13, residents of Mineral Ridge and Niles can leave donations in a bag designated for the agency by the their mailboxes for postal workers to collect or stop by the agency at 401 Vienna Ave., Niles, between 9 a.m and 5 p.m.

At the agency, Niles McKinley High School Key Club members will be on site, unloading and sorting canned goods and other food items.

Williams said food banks and pantries receive a majority of donations during the holidays and by springtime, those sources are depleted. She said with summer approaching, the Stamp Out Hunger campaign replenishes organizations’ shelves and prevent them from drying out.

She said the need is 365 days a year and NCS works with the community year-round to provide extra assistance.

The campaign has been successful in Niles for the past 16 years, Williams said, and last year, the agency received about 25,000 pounds of donations. In 2015, she said, the agency collected 22,000 pounds of nonperishables.

“The response is excellent, and it grows every year,” Williams said. “This city has been quite generous to us, so we’re very pleased.”

She said the campaign also gives residents a chance to meet their letter carriers and connect through community service.

This will be the 17th year the Niles Post Office letter carriers have helped NCS by collecting items throughout the city, Williams said.

Tom Zunic, a four-year Niles letter carrier, said both NCS and the post office usually receive a lot of support. Every year, he said, people continue to donate a record amount.

“We feel that it’s a very positive campaign and that we’re constantly building on past success,” Williams said. “Residents of the city look forward to participating with the letter carriers.”

A main goal of the campaign is to ensure local donations remain in the community, said Niles Post Office supervisor Adam Francis. He said from his past experiences with Stamp Out Hunger, he’s seen many people “who don’t have a whole lot” still donate.

And with so many people going hungry across the nation, Zunic and Francis said one way to help the local hunger-relief effort is to donate to the collection and encourage others to give back as well.

Williams said postcards explaining the food campaign were sent to local residents in advance as a reminder. She said NCS cannot accept frozen, homemade or home-canned foods or expired, damaged or opened items.

Francis said people with houses that sit in the back shouldn’t leave donations on the porch but instead by the mailbox. He said it saves time and makes it easier on the letter carriers.

Stamp Out Hunger is a way to help more than 49 million Americans, including 13 million children and 5 million senior citizens, who face hunger every day.

Williams said people who aren’t able to donate May 13 also can drop off items before or after that date between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at the post office and 8:30 and 4 p.m. during the week at NCS.

“We’re not picky,” she said.

While delivering to the NCS office, Williams said, local carriers can take a break from their routes and enjoy some food. She said the food drive is just one way the letter carriers give back to the community and to show appreciation to them, as well as the Key Club members, NCS volunteers will provide food and beverages.

For more information, call the agency at 330-652-6412.