Kicking hunger to the curb

POULSBO — Patty Gilbert has a problem, but hers is a good problem to have.

Gilbert, volunteer manager for the North Kitsap Fishline, is expecting about 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of nonperishable goods to be donated this Saturday and needs volunteers to help with collecting, sorting and stocking shelves.

"When you talk about 20,000 pounds of food that needs to be loaded, unpacked and sorted in a matter of hours, that's a lot of people moving a lot of food," Gilbert said.

The influx of donations will be spurred by a local slice of the national Stamp Out Hunger campaign, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers. The effort is a nationwide food drive in which residents can leave nonperishable food or hygiene items in a bag either in or beside their mailboxes. Postal carriers pick up items from inside mailboxes and drop them off at the post office to be donated to the nearest food bank. Bags placed outside the mailboxes are retrieved by volunteers, Gilbert said. And so far there aren't enough volunteers to go around.

She estimates there's about 100 volunteers on her roster overall, but Saturday's effort requires dozens of extra volunteers.

Volunteers are needed to drive the postal routes and pick up the donations left outside the mailboxes then drop off the donations at the food bank. The volunteers allow the food bank a jump start on sorting and stocking, as the items they pick up are delivered directly to food banks, instead of stopping at the post office first.

"We're short on drivers," she said Tuesday afternoon. "We have 18 postal routes and at this point we only have eight drivers."

The post office, too, is seeking volunteers to help with the effort. Poulsbo Postmaster Kris Strand said Stamp Out Hunger is an exhausting but worthwhile campaign.

"(The postal carriers) are going to be tired but hopefully they'll be tired and very satisfied because they're doing something great for the community," Strand said. "It's a great day for us; it's a very important day when we can feel really good about what we're doing."

Strand expects family and friends of post office employees to pitch in, as well as the local military contingent.

The key to Stamp Out Hunger's success, she said, is that it is neighbor helping neighbor.

"I think people like the feeling that they're giving back to their local community," Strand said.

The postal carriers' work during the one-day food drive does not go unnoticed, said Mark Ince, executive director of ShareNet Food Bank in Kingston.

"I know from working with the post office on this event for the last two years, it's a lot of extra work for them," Ince said.

Ince said he's booked a group from Kitsap Youth in Action to lend a hand that day, but more volunteers couldn't hurt.

To help with the effort, leave a bag of nonperishable food or hygiene items next to or in your mailbox this Saturday. To volunteer at North Kitsap Fishline, call Gilbert at (360) 779-5190; to volunteer at Sharenet in Kingston, call (360) 297-2266.

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