By Jim Newell
Saturday is one of the busiest days of the year for postal carriers, and the Lake Orion Postal workers are doing their part to help Stamp Out Hunger.
The 26th annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive is May 12 and residents can help out their neighbors by leaving any amount of nonperishable food items by their mailbox so local postal carriers can swoop by to pick them up.
All donations from the Orion area will be given to Oxford/Orion FISH, which serves people in Oxford, Orion, Addison and Oakland townships.
About 30 carriers will be out collecting food, said Dee Thompson, who organized the Lake Orion Post Office food drive.
The post office collected 16,371 pounds of food last year and Thompson hopes to surpass that total this year. “20,000 pounds would be really cool.”
“We visit every customer six days a week. We drive by every house every day,” said Lake Orion Postmaster Mike Losiowski. “What a perfect organization to do something like this.”
The post office also accepts food donations throughout the year. “We keep a collection box in the lobby and people put food in there all year long,” Thompson said.
On FISH’s pantry “Wish List” is chili, canned tomatoes, Hamburger Helper, Chunky Soup, canned meats like tuna and chicken and items for the kids, such as SpaghettiOs and peanut butter and jelly, said Julie Howald, vice president of the FISH Board.
People are also asked to verify expiration dates. If donated food is expired it can’t be put on the pantry shelves. Postal workers will drop off bags this week to help make it easier when collecting the donations.
After postal carriers bring all the bounty back to the post office, volunteer drivers shuttle the food to FISH’s headquarters, 487 First St. in Oxford Twp., and more volunteers begin sorting through items.
“It works well. We organize volunteers to come and pick up the donations,” Howald said of the partnership with the post office. “The community is awesome. They support us so well. It’s the largest food drive of the year for us.”
FISH also needs volunteers to help from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday with sorting at the main headquarters in Oxford and their storage facility, 3637 Lakeville Rd. Call FISH at 248-628-3933 to volunteer.
“FISH has been serving the area for 45 years and we’re 100 percent volunteer staffed,” Howald said, adding most people don’t realize there are people in Orion and Oxford who rely on the food donations. “I was very surprised at the need when I moved here.”
FISH distributes 15,000 – 17,000 pounds of food per month, distributing 183,000 pounds of food in 2017. Between 400-500 people come in each month to get food from the pantry, Howald said.
Monetary donations can also be mailed to Oxford/Orion FISH, P.O. Box 732 Lake Orion, MI 48361, or made online at oxfordorionfish.org.
“It’s pretty fun,” Thompson said of the food drive, adding the most difficult part is trying to deliver the mail while finding room in the mail trucks for the food. “The mail carriers are pretty upbeat about helping out.”
Thompson, who has been with the Lake Orion Post Office for 14 years and has seen the need grow over that time and feels there is a good reason to support your neighbors. “Everybody needs help sometimes. People run into hard times and just need a little help.”
“She’s really dedicated to it. She takes charge of it,” Losiowski said. “Not everybody has a job. There are seniors and people who are unemployed who need a little help. Most of the folks at the post office are very grateful to help out others who may need it.”
FISH also assists people with personal hygiene items, shampoo/conditioner, shaving cream and razors, as well as basic staples such as cereal, eggs, milk, meat, bread, soup, beverages, snack treats, garbage bags, Kleenex, and much more.
“We always need laundry soap and personal hygiene items. Most people don’t know that you can’t buy laundry soap with a Bridge Card,” Howald said.
Stamp Out Hunger is a national food drive effort supported by the National Association of Letter Carriers. In 2017, Americans donated 71 million pounds of food, making it the 14th consecutive year of at least 70 million pounds collected.
The Lake Orion Post Office is part of NALC Branch 320, which serves north Oakland County. Last year, the branch of 12 offices was first in the nation for a union of their size, collecting 319,253 pounds of food, Thompson said.
For more information about the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, visit www.feedingamerica.org or www.nalc.org/community-servicefood-drive.