The Year's Busiest Weekend for OR Letter Carriers
Thursday, May 10, 2012
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - It's almost time to put more than the outgoing mail at your mailbox. Saturday is the 20th annual "Stamp Out Hunger" event, the biggest one-day charitable food drive in Oregon and the nation.
It's traditionally timed to take place just before the school year ends, because many places don't have summer meal programs for children who rely on meals at school. That's especially true in rural areas such as southern Oregon, where Niki Sampson, director of the Klamath and Lake Counties Food Bank, says the need always spikes during the summer months.
"We try and provide bigger food boxes so that there's more food going to their home for their parents to be able to make meals for them. So, it's really super-important; this drive means a whole lot to a lot of rural children."
The U.S. Postal Service has been at the center of its own budget storm in recent years, with layoffs, closures and service curtailments suggested by some in Congress. For this weekend, however, the letter carriers are local heroes.
Jim Cook, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82 in Portland, explains.
"We know the conditions of our economy. We know the people who are in need. We deliver much more than the mail each day, so it's just a matter of keeping this network alive and understanding the importance of postal service to each community in this nation."
Cook says this food drive is always held on the second Saturday in May - something that would have to change if Saturday mail delivery ends.
Letter carriers in Eugene and Oregon City started their own food drives years before the national event was organized. Stamp Out Hunger began in urban areas, and spread more recently to rural towns. Sampson says last year's drive raised 33,000 pounds of food in Lake and Klamath counties - but it wasn't always that way.
"This is the 15th anniversary of participation of Klamath and Lake letter-carriers. The first year, we got six pounds of food. We had four cans; they weighed six pounds!"
Participation in Stamp Out Hunger is easy: Just place a bag of canned or nonperishable food items on your front porch or near the mailbox this Saturday. The letter carriers and an army of volunteers will pick them up, and donations stay in the local area where they are collected.
More details are online at helpstampouthunger.com.
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