When Marykate O’Connell saw many winter visitors throw away extra food before returning to their northern homes, she rolled up her sleeves and started the first-ever Snowbird Food Drive at North Naples Fire Department. Because of her efforts, many needy families will have food on the table during this tough economy.
On the final day of the Snowbird Food Drive, O’Connell loaded up hundreds of boxes of donations of canned and non-perishable foods at a local fire station, and filled an entire room of her home with collected donations for delivery to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida.
O’Connell currently serves as marketing anager with Two Men and a Truck moving company, based in Naples. O’Connell delivered extra moving boxes at the conclusion of the drive, and placed them in fire stations throughout the district to gather up food for the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
“Part of the core values of our franchise is giving back to the community, and to have integrity,” said O’Connell.
Her food drive had such an enthusiastic response that she extended the drive to May 5, adding more time for later drop-offs at fire stations located across North Naples.
“We’re very happy to be a collection point for them, and she had a great idea,” said Chief Orly Stolts from Station 45.
After months of collecting thousands of canned items and dry food, O’Connell and her team at Two Men and a Truck readied the boxes at Station 45 for the final collection. The trucks will then transport the food to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida for delivery.
Harry Chapin Food Bank serves five counties, including Collier County, with an overall goal of fighting hunger for all families in need, according to its mission statement. The nonprofit organization collectively works together with community volunteers such as O’Connell to sort and distribute food without discrimination to recipients.
Those who missed the Snowbird Food Drive can also make a difference by dropping off non-perishable food items along with your mail at your mailbox on May 14, or at your local post office.
“All of the letter carriers in the nation will be picking up donated food items on the same day. We’re looking for canned goods, or unopened staples of any kind,” said Postmaster Richard L. Barber.
More than 10,000 cities across the nation will be involved to keep food banks fully stocked with the National Letter Carriers Association Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. To help illustrate this rising need for food in the nation, the National Association of Letter Carriers President Frederic Rolando cited Department of Agriculture Statistics that measure hunger in the United States.
“Those figures show that the number of Americans living in homes lacking sufficient food topped 50 million in 2009 alone,” Rolando said.
Therefore, the May 14 Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive at the local post office will replenish dwindling supplies of food in the community, which will hopefully help to offset any possible shortages in the summer.
“We’re extremely grateful to the post office, as we distribute to local agencies in Collier County,” said Connie Preu, executive director of Collier Harvest, the beneficiary of the collected food from May 14. “What they collect for us on May 14, stays right here, and it will last through June, July and August. We have to save enough food for if there is a hurricane, especially.”
“It’s a labor of love for the Postal Service in this area. We recognize the need in the community and we’re happy to assist,” said Barber.
For more information or for those who want to volunteer with the National Association of Letter Carriers annual food drive, call (239) 435-2146.