by Larry Austin
The Neighbors Foundation food pantry in the basement of Old St. Stephen Church is well stocked thanks to the generosity of Island residents and their mail carriers.
According to Hank Kammerer, president of the Neighbors Foundation, a record 14,000 pounds of food was collected Saturday, May 10, during the annual Letter Carriers' Food Drive. Residents left donations of food at their mailboxes for pickup by Island U.S. Postal Service workers, who then delivered to the Neighbors Foundation pantry in the basement of Old St. Stephen Church.
"Through the summer into September, we're golden," Kammerer said of the food situation in the pantry, thanks to Saturday's drive. "We're well set now."
He said about 40 volunteers took part in the receipt and sorting of donations, some of which went to pantries in Buffalo.
Kammerer said the donations help meet a "pretty continuous need."
Kelly Ann Kowalski of the Network of Religious Communities in Buffalo said, "people would be really surprised" at the need for temporary help within an overall wealthy community.
Her organization, which serves 350 to 400 people a month countywide, benefits from the Neighbor Foundation sharing some of the Letter Carriers' Food Drive donations.
"It's really helpful," Kowalski said, estimating that the donations will supplement their pantry through the end of June. The Island is "amazing. ... Every neighborhood should have a foundation such as theirs."
She said the Network of Religious Communities has a longtime partnership in referring Island clients in need to the Neighbors Foundation.
"In the suburbs, you find that everything looks good on the outside, but you really don't know what the financial situation is on the inside," Kowalski said.
John Mondoux, a retired postal worker who was a carrier for over 25 years on the Island, said he and Scoutmaster Pat Garten of Troop 510 supervised eight Scouts who met letter carriers on their routes and relieved them of some of their donations.
Mondoux said he developed a relationship with his customers that translated into increased donations during the drive.
"They seemed every year to give me more and more stuff because I was more than just a mailman," said Mondoux. "On routes like that I'd have to make two, three, four trips coming back and forth because I didn't have the room in my vehicle."