May 10, the day before Mother’s Day, is a big day for the Rhode Island Family Shelter. It’s the day when, if this year is anything like last year, Warwick letter carriers will collect enough food for the shelter to provide 2,000 meals over the next year.
That’s not all. The food collected in the “Stamp Out Hunger” drive will also go to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, which feeds more than 68,000 Rhode Islanders each month. But for both the Food Bank and the Family Shelter to do their work, the letter carriers are counting on public generosity.
The staff at the Rhode Island Family Shelter is looking forward to May 10, when the Warwick Post Office participates in the annual NALC National Food Drive, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers. This one-day drive collected 74.4 million pounds of food nationally last year and 1.3 billion pounds since its formation in 1992. Andrew Schiff, the chief executive officer of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, said in a statement the drive is “one of only two statewide food drives during the year.” Last year, the Warwick Post Office alone amassed 16,662 pounds of foodstuffs, and this year is looking promising for them.
Rhode Island Family Shelter is a charitable organization based in Warwick that provides shelter and affordable housing to homeless families. The shelter houses nine families, or roughly 35 individuals at one time, and is run by a community-based board of directors, several local employees and nearly 70 volunteers at any given time.
The NALC Food Drive is one of the biggest assets to the Family Shelter over the course of a year, bringing in about 20 boxes, or several thousand dollars worth of non-perishable food items each year. This provides three meals a day to every single person in the shelter for up to three weeks.
“It is one of our largest food donations,” said Patti Macreading, the executive director at the shelter. “It helps us provide over 1,500 nutritious meals for the families.”
Every letter carrier for the Warwick Post Office is involved in the cause. The carriers place cards in the mailboxes during their regular route in order to notify people of the upcoming drive. In the card, they ask that a durable bag of food be left in or near the mailbox before 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 10. They then pick up all donations and bring them back to the post office, where they are collected and sent out to their proper destinations.
For the sake of preserving the donations, carriers prefer canned goods, but will accept any food donations with the exception of produce, which spoils too easily to be kept for very long. The items that they currently need most are canned goods such as vegetables, beans, soup and tuna, as well as cereal, peanut butter, pasta and rice.
Jim Harrington, NALC Congressional District Liaison for District 2 of Rhode Island and the coordinator of the food and blood drives for the Warwick Post Office, said, “It’s astonishing the feedback we get. People love it. People love their mail carriers anyway, and this is the one time a year that we can really give back.”
Harrington, a former U.S. Marine, has been in the Postal Service since 2004 and took over coordinating the drive last year, after his predecessor retired from the post office. The drive has helped him at the NALC Leadership Academy, from which he is a recent graduate. Overall, it has had only good effects on Harrington and his fellow letter carriers.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it in the end,” he said.
The folks at the Rhode Island Family Shelter would certainly agree as they look forward to another successful and beneficial food drive.
Editor’s note: A senior at Bishop Hendricken, Matt Rich, who wrote this article, is completing his work-study experience at the Beacon.