By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
One look at Kelly Kowalski's car showed Grand Island's strong support of this year's Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.
Kowalski, of Network of Religious Communities in Buffalo, drove away a vehicle Saturday loaded with donated nonperishable food items bound for her organization's food pantry on Delaware Avenue thanks to Island postal workers and the Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island.
The National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive took place May 9. Donations left at Island mailboxes were picked up by postal carriers and delivered to the Neighbors Foundation food pantry in the basement of Old St. Stephen R.C. Church. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds to the church, after which representatives of several local pantries were on hand to take them away.
"Whatever we get, we're always grateful for," Kowalski said of the food drive. Her group assists anyone in Erie County at its pantry as well as conducts food stamp outreach. According to Karen Mazurkiewicz of the U.S. Postal Service in Buffalo, in 2014, more than 72 million pounds of food was collected by carriers nationally in the 22nd year of the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, Feeding America, United Way and others.
"It's a huge help, especially during the summer when our pantry's the busiest because kids are off school and families have to stretch the dollar," Kowalski said of the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. She explained that during school year, some children in need receive free breakfast or lunch at school, but after school ends, some parents have difficulty providing meals.
"So July and August, when people usually stop donating, are the busiest times at the food pantry, ironically enough," Kowalski said.
The Neighbors Foundation also shared donated food with Friends of the Night People and St. George Orthodox Church at 1073 Saunders Settlement Road in Lewiston.
Islander Denise Filosofos and fellow St. George members Jarod Arajs, Gayle Fadel, Sylvia Bailey, Colline Doyle and Beth Arajs volunteered to sort food stuffs in the Old St. Stephen basement, shoulder to shoulder with about 30 other volunteers from the Island, many from the Neighbors Foundation. Hank Kammerer, president of the Neighbors Foundation, said members of the Interact Club and Student Council from Grand Island High School and Boy Scout Troop 510 (under the direction of Scoutmaster Pat Garten) out of Trinity United Methodist Church were also among the volunteers sorting food donations.
Beth Arajs said they have a small pantry at St. George with some local families in need.
"We also deliver food to other food pantries when they're running low. We share what we have wherever it's needed," Arajs said.
Denny Dahl of the Neighbors Foundation said volunteers helped lighten the load for postal carriers by meeting them on their routes to relieve them of some donations, which would otherwise fill their trucks.
To support the Network of Religious Communities, call Kowalski at 716-882-7705 or email [email protected].