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Stamping out hunger one mailbox at a time

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Today North Enders can help Stamp Out Hunger without exerting a whole lot of effort. By hanging non-perishable food items on their mailboxes, North Enders can help stock the shelves of local food banks. Letter carriers will do the rest by collecting the food and getting it to local food banks.

The National Association of Letter Carriers, in association with the AFL-CIO, is spearheading the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Now in its 14th year, it is the largest single-day food drive in the nation.

“Letter carriers get paid by the hour,” said Debbie Corrigan, supervisor for Poulsbo’s U.S. Post Office, adding all mail deliverers in the North End are either rural or contracted carriers.

“Rural carriers (and contracted carriers) here get paid to deliver mail. Any extra time devoted to picking up canned food is all volunteer time and they are doing it to help their communities,” Corrigan said.

Each year, carriers spend upward of an additional three hours each with no pay to provide this service to their community, “out of the goodness of their hearts,” she said.

Taylor Niemy, 23, has been a contract carrier for the Kingston Post Office for more than two and a half years.

Each year he spends an extra hour just delivering plastic bags residents can fill with donations. The tan plastic bags are clearly marked and sport the characters from “The Family Circus” comic strip. They’ve already been delivered to mailboxes throughout the North End.

Niemy said he often picks up bags of canned food three days after the food drive because people forget, or don’t get around to hanging them on their mailboxes on time.

Julia Rutzer, postmaster for Kingston’s U.S. Post Office, said contracted carriers like Niemy are not actual post office employees, therefore all their efforts are completely voluntary.

“It is not a requirement for them,” she said. “They use their own resources and own additional hours with no compensation. They put forth tremendous effort to participate in this and do it every year.”

Corrigan said carriers prefer people to hang the supplied bags with donations where they are reachable.

“It’s very hard on some of them,” she said. “Some aren’t as young as they used to be.”

Rutzer said those residents who do donate are helping their local community.

Poulsbo donations will be delivered to Fishline and Kingston donations will be separated between the Kingston Food Bank, Port Gamble S’Klallam Food Bank and Sharenet food bank.

“We receive a lot of contributions here in Kingston. There are volunteers who drive around and help carriers collect,” she said. “It’s quite an undertaking but the community participation has always been wonderful.”

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