Food and essentials to fill mailboxes Saturday

Published 10:06 am Monday, May 8, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The 14th Annual Letter Carrier's Food Drive is just around the corner, and Chris Cloud can't wait.
She is a Niles letter carrier for the area near the post office, parts of Fifth and Sycamore streets and the neighborhood surrounding the Niles-Buchanan YMCA.
Cloud is excited because it has been tradition for about the last 10 years for her daughter, Alice Cloud, and Alice's friend Keri Blumka to help along the route. While Cloud delivers the mail, her “troopers” Alice, 19, and Keri, 18, pull a small wagon to load with non-perishable food, soap and paper goods.
This year's NALC Food Drive is set for Saturday, May 13. That morning, postal customers are asked to leave non-perishable food items like canned meats and fish, canned soup, juice, pasta, vegetables, cereal and rice by their mailbox. Products in boxes can be wrapped in plastic bags for protection from rain.
Letter carriers and helpers then pick up the goods and deliver them to a local food bank. In Niles, Cloud said the donations will go to The Christian Service Organization and the Salvation Army.
Last year's drive collected more than 71 million pounds of non-perishable food nationally. Cloud said the combined total for Niles, Berrien Springs, Buchanan, Three Oaks, New Buffalo, Dowagiac and Galien was 42,745 pounds.
Niles collected 24,671 pounds and Dowagiac pulled in more than 8,000 pounds, Cloud said.
There is reason behind the timing of the drive. Cloud said many food banks receive bundles of donations during the winter holiday season, only to run low by the time spring comes around.
The NALC Food Drive, the largest one-day food drive in the country, refills the shelves for the summer months.
A major national sponsor of the event is Campbell's Soup Company, who is printing and delivering ‘Stamp Out Hunger' postcards to nearly 110 million people. The creator of the Family Circus cartoon, Bil Keane, is also helping out by penciling a special promotional sketch for flyers, T-shirts and posters.
Those who help on the local level don't earn national recognition but are still a large part of the drive. Cloud said it is common to see people of all ages, even little ones, waiting to hand over bags of goods.
And, Cloud should know her favorite work day of the year provides others with some better times during the winter.