by Susan Mikula Campbell
Organizers of the annual Electric Lights Parade down Military Road in the Town of Niagara are so excited about the results of the "care a ton" food drive at this year's parade, they've decided to extend the collection.
Parade Chairman Gary Strenkoski said Tuesday that the ton of food from the Oct. 29 parade was to be delivered to Community Missions that day to ensure stocked cupboards for those in need for Thanksgiving.
However, donations will still be accepted until Dec. 23 at Strenkoski Brothers, 8888 Porter Road; at Gene's Wholesale Tires, 2924 Military Road; and at Marsh's General Store, 7535 Packard Road in the Town of Niagara. Also, in Wheatfield, the Save-A-Lot at the old Summit Mall on Williams Road will be accepting donations. This will help ensure food for Christmas as well.
"It will go into hands that need it," promised Gene Colucci of Gene's Wholesale Tires, president of the Town of Niagara Business and Professional Association, a main organizer of the parade.
"A lot of stories come out of Community Missions that I've heard firsthand of families that if not for Community Missions, they would have no food," Strenkoski said.
He and Colucci pointed out that the economy and unemployment in the area has increased the number of people who need assistance.
"You have to get out into the community and make a positive change," Colucci said. "That's why we get involved in the community - to make the world a better place."
In Town of Niagara, they said, that comes from the top down with Supervisor Steve Richards and the Town Board.
Strenkoski and Colucci already are talking about setting up a challenge for parade participants next year to see which of the marchers can bring in the most food.
"I think it's going to be a great tradition in the town," Strenkoski said.
This was the fourth year for the food drive during the parade. By Sunday, Strenkoski had counted up 1,974 pounds of food in his garage (2,000 pounds is one U.S. ton). One of Colucci's employees gave him a $20 bill to buy more to reach the goal. Then, by Monday, he had received another 300 pounds of food to exceed the goal.
The community pulled together to present the parade and food drive this year. Along with TNBPA and town government, Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Niagara and Community Missions were presenters. Allied Waste was a major sponsor. A to Z Rental and the Joe Cecconi Chrysler Complex were associate sponsors. The new Niagara-Wheatfield Kiwanis were parade marshals and members of Frontier Volunteer Fire Co. collected food along the parade route.
Strenkoski also announced the parade winners.
•In the floats category, first went to J&J Decking, second to Niagara Cerebral Palsy and third to A to Z Rental.
•For dance groups, winners were Adell's School of Dance and Jaclyn Carrolls' Dance.
•In the walkers category, first was the Boy Scouts, second was the Girl Scouts and third was the Town of Niagara Lions Club.
•The novelty winner was Buffalo Clown Alley.
•In color guards, the Niagara County Sheriff's Office took first, WNY Maritime Charter School was second and the Niagara Falls Police Department was third.