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United Way to host food drives in Jefferson, Lewis counties

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The United Way of Northern New York needs to restock food pantry shelves to help fill the bellies of students heading back to school.

The nonprofit organization is seeking community participation in its annual food drive in Jefferson County from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 13 in the parking lot of St. Anthony’s Church at Arsenal Street and Bellew Avenue, and its drive in Lewis County from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 14 at the county fairgrounds in Lowville.

“The public should drive by there just to see what it looks like,” Robert D. Gorman, United Way chief executive officer, said of the Jefferson County food drive. “They can see what the need is because of the mountain of food.”

Nineteen food pantries throughout Jefferson County and seven food pantries in Lewis County will benefit from their respective food drives. Additionally, two food pantries in St. Lawrence County also will benefit from the Jefferson County food drive. The United Way is working on establishing an inaugural food drive in St. Lawrence County this year.

Daniel N. Taylor, president and chief executive operator of the Lowville Food Pantry, said that pantry will take any food and personal hygiene items it can get. In the month of July alone, he said, the pantry served 211 families.

Items the pantry has run particularly low on are canned meats, spaghetti sauce and pasta.

“Our pantry also accepts fresh fruits and vegetables, and local eggs from farmers,” Mr. Taylor said.

Those items will not be collected at the United Way food drives. Common items accepted at the those include tuna, soup, spaghetti sauce, pork and beans, peanut butter and jelly, dried pasta, cereal, canned vegetables, canned fruit and boxed sides, such as macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper.

The success of both drives would not be possible without the support of sponsors. For example, Lewis County Opportunities and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce support the Lewis County food drive. In Jefferson County, much support is provided by department heads through the county government office. Northern Federal Credit Union provides support to both food drives.

Michael W. Woods, the credit union’s vice president of finance and operations and a United Way board member, said the credit union alone provides upwards of $7,000 worth of food to the Jefferson County food drive. That is made possible with an average of $5,000 in donations and purchasing the food at a discounted price through Hannaford Supermarket, Arsenal St.

One of the benefits of being a partner in the food drives, Mr. Woods said, is seeing how everyone comes together to help with one common cause.

“It’s a living example of how everyone doing their little bit makes it all work,” he said.

Mr. Gorman said he doesn’t know if anyone can top the credit union’s support, but he’s willing to wait and see about that.

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