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Fall food drive begins

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The donated food came in one carload at a time Saturday morning.

Unloaded into carts at the Helping Hand Food Bank, the food was weighed, then sorted by an efficient group of volunteers.

"Only 89 more carts," volunteer Ralph Vine joked.

"I hope you're kidding Ralph," volunteer Brian Stephenson laughed.

They weren't counting carts, but they did tally the food. In total, 10,362 pounds of food was collected during Saturday's Thanksgiving Food Blitz. Over a four-day period (Oct. 1-4) the annual food drive brought in 13,562 pounds.

"That's about the best yet," said Helping Hand Food Bank coordinator Joan Clarkson. "But we have to remember that last year we gave out 105,000 pounds of food, so we have to gather lots more between now and Christmas. We are thankful for all the food drives coming up between now and the end of the year."

She checks one of the carts, a spot check, curious to see the random items.

"We get a lot of pasta," she said, opening a couple bags. "And here, we've got peanut butter... this will be for a big family."

Included in nearly 9,000 pounds of food distributed each month in the Tillsonburg area are milk, cheese, eggs and margarine, which Clarkson buys on a weekly basis.

"Every week I'll get 48 containers of margarine. And I always get 15 dozen eggs. Next week, I think, the Egg Board is starting to help out. I'm going to get 45 dozen eggs – and that will be three or four times a year. The Dairy Board gives me 90 litres of milk every month, so I only have to buy milk on the weeks between...

"How many carts are still out here?" Clarkson asks Vine as he squeezes through the congested hallway. "I asked them to put some in the back room."

"Just here," said Vine. "That's it."

Looking into the sorting room, Clarkson is pleased to see shelves, crates and boxes filling up. At least half of her 40 regular volunteers assisted Saturday.

"A lot of the volunteers come back to help for a while. And we had the (Glendale HS) Key Club – a dozen of their members back there this afternoon. And a couple from Glendale not in the Key Club. They (Key Club) wanted to bring 24, but we didn't know how many others we'd have, so I asked for 12."

The extra helping hands were appreciated, she said.

"They're really nice kids – all of the kids here today were doing a wonderful, wonderful job. They were a great help."

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