Local mail carriers play a huge role in citizens’ daily lives, which will become even greater Saturday when they join forces with Yokefellow Cooperative Ministry to provide food for the needy.
This will occur through the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, an effort spearheaded by the National Association of Letter Carriers now in its 25th year.
The campaign involves mail carriers distributing specially marked plastic bags to local homes, where residents are encouraged to fill those bags with canned and boxed goods or other non-perishable food items.
To participate, recipients should leave food items inside the mailbox or directly beside it on Saturday, when postal carriers will pick up the goods during their scheduled routes.
“It is an extremely important event for Yokefellow,” said Dixie Ratliff, program coordinator for the organization’s food bank based on Jones School Road. The food pantry has been in operation since the 1970s, when the Yokefellow organization was launched through a collaboration of area churches.
In 2016, the local Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive produced 18,231 pounds of items, which the Yokefellow food bank distributed to residents in need.
Despite any national reports to the contrary, a bad economy is still causing problems in this community, judging by its need.
While the economy might have rebounded in big cities such as Charlotte, “it’s been stagnant here,” Ratliff added Tuesday.
“We’re seeing more clients,” she said of those showing up at the food bank seeking assistance. “We saw more in 2016 than we did in 2015.” This included a couple hundred more people, according to the program coordinator.
“Also, our donations did drop,” Ratliff said of the Yokefellow facility’s capacity to meet the extra demand. As a result, it gave out 331,759 pounds of food in 2016, compared to 409,825 the year before.
Ratliff is confident the community will respond during the present food drive, saying that it is blessed with a sense of caring seen in few other places, including the large city in California where she is from. “It is overwhelming to me.”
The delivering of bags for the food drive is under way.
“They started it last week,” Ratliff said. “I know some people got them on Friday and I got mine yesterday (Monday).”
More bags are expected to be distributed this week ahead of the big collection day on Saturday.
Ratliff said that as mail carriers complete their routes that day, they will take what’s collected to the Yokefellow facility, where about 20 volunteers will be on hand to weigh the food and place it on shelves.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.