Massive donation kicks off food panty filler
When New York State Courts Sgt. Pete Robinson came to talk to Niagara County lawmakers about the local "Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive," he should have brought a wheelbarrow.
That's because the courts officer - who, as a talented tenor sings the national anthem at a number of local venues in addition to being one of the major organizers of the food drive - was met by Lockport's three county lawmakers toting dozens of jars of the popular lunchtime sandwich spreads.
Six dozen, to be exact. Or 24 creamy peanut butters, 12 crunchy peanut butters, 24 grape jellies and 12 strawberry jams.
"We always have made it a point to give back to the community, and after the 'Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive' was so successful last year, we decided we needed to support a truly successful local charity effort," said Legislator Wm. Keith McNall, R-Lockport.
McNall, along with Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, and Legislator Tony Nemi, I-Lockport, had donated roughly a dozen turkeys every fall to area food pantries, but decided that given the "Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive's" links to Lockport, and the success of the drive in its 2010 inaugural run, their dollars and efforts were better spent there.
"Pete Robinson, (Papa Leo's Manager) Gary Chapman, and the rest of their volunteers make such a wonderful different in our community," McNall said. "And when you're given the privilege of representing your neighbors, like we are, you want to do everything you can to help neighbors like Pete and Gary, because it's efforts like this that make Lockport and Niagara County special places."
The second annual "Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive" runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 3. In addition to the two named spreads, drive organizers say they will happily take jars of marshmallow fluff for fans of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich's sticky cousin, the fluffernutter. Organizers do not, however, accept money.
Updegrove, who wheeled out a large children's wagon stacked three feet high with the spreadables, said he saw a lot of need driven by national economic trends.
"It's that time of year when we think about our less fortunate, and with the weak national economy, we need to all do what we can," Updegrove said. "For Keith, Tony, and me, this was an easy decision. Peanut butter and jelly are the kind of staples that can help a family stretch their food budget, and we'd challenge our neighbors who can do so to join us and donate to the 'Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive.' "
The third member of the trio, Nemi, had his own personal perspective after a long career at the City of Lockport's Youth Bureau.
"I've known hundreds and hundreds of local kids," Nemi said. "I've seen the ones I knew were missing meals, going hungry. Nothing helps those kids as well as local charity, and no charity I've seen has had such energy and passion behind it as the 'Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive.' "
Robinson, who arrived Tuesday just planning to give an update on the drive, thanked the trio after being surprised by Lockport's wagonload.
"I'm really touched by Keith, Rick and Tony's generosity," Robinson said. "Providing security at the courthouse as often as I do, I've known all three of them for some time, so I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. But it's really something when someone takes the time to make a gesture like this and help you get off to a good start."
The "Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive" is placing bins donated by Modern Corp. at area schools so area schoolchildren can donate. Other drop-off sites can be found in most civic buildings, including the Niagara County Clerk's office and Lockport City Hall.
More information on the drive is available on the effort's Facebook page, or by emailing Robinson at [email protected]. Robinson can also be reached at 716-510-7108.