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 best to help Stamp Out Hunger.
The 27th annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive is May 11 and residents can help out their neighbors by leaving any amount of non-perishable food items in bags by their mailbox so 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.
While letter carriers are out collecting food, others will be in the Post Office’s loading bay to help unload food from the mail trucks before it’s shipped off to FISH, said Dee Thompson, who organizes the Lake Orion Post Office food drive.
The post office collected 30,608 pounds of food last year, up from 16,371 pounds in 2017 – Thompson had hoped just to reach 20,000 pounds.
“I’m just blown away by how much we pulled in last year. Lake Orion is a major contributor to our Stamp Out Hunger food drive,” said Lake Orion Postmaster Mike Losiowski. “We visit every customer six days a week. We drive by every house every day. What a perfect organization to do something like this.”
The Lake Orion Post Office, 611 N. Axford St., 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, adding that she’s noticed house cleaning products and pet food in the box recently. “I never would have thought of it myself.”
On FISH’s May “Wish List” is canned tuna, canned chicken, canned salmon, chili, baked beans, peanut butter, apple juice, applesauce, canned pears, canned mixed fruit, canned tomatoes, ramen noodles and salad dressing, but all donations of non-perishable, non-expired food are welcome, said Julie Howald, vice president of the FISH board.
People are also asked to verify expiration dates: expired food can’t be put on the pantry shelves.
After postal carriers bring all the bounty back to the post office, volunteer drivers shuttle the food to FISH’s headquarters, 1060 S. Lapeer Rd. in Oxford Twp., and more volunteers begin sorting through items.
“We are still in need of a couple drivers to help transport food from the post office to the pantry, especially between 3-6 p.m.,” Howald said. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
FISH also needs volunteers from noon – 6 p.m. at the pantry. FISH has a SignUpGenius on its website, www.oxfordorionfish.org, or call 248-628-3933.
“We need more volunteers to help sort food. We are really in need after about 3 p.m. and could use 20-30 people. We’re hoping some high school students who need community service hours might sign up,” Howald said.
Howald said the Lake Orion and Oxford post offices together collected almost 50,000 pounds of food last year.
“Everyone brings in food. Everyone contributes in some way,” Thompson said of the postal workers. “It’s pretty fun. The mail carriers are pretty upbeat about helping out.”
“It works well. We organize volunteers to come and pick up the donations,” Howald said of the partnership with the post office. “This community is awesome. They support us so well. It’s the largest food drive of the year for us.”
Thompson has been with the Lake Orion Post Office for 15 years and has seen the need grow over that time. “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. The folks at the post office are very grateful to help out others who may need it.”
“FISH has been serving the area for 46 years and we’re 100 percent volunteer staffed,” Howald said, adding that the food pantry is adding 10-12 new clients each month since opening its new building just south of Drahner Road. “I was very surprised at the need when I moved here. This is a relatively affluent area and most people don’t realize there is a need here.”
In 2018, FISH had 2,034 (170 per month) household visits, served 4,727 (394 per month) individuals and dispersed 186,953 pounds of food, up from 183,000 in 2017.
FISH also provided 173 students backpacks filled with school supplies, 179 families received Easter Dinner Baskets, 197 families, including many Heritage Place Senior Housing clients, received Thanksgiving Dinner Baskets; and 170 children received Christmas gifts through the AngelFISH program
Monetary donations can also be made online at www.oxfordorionfish.org, or mailed to Oxford/Orion FISH, P.O. Box 732, Lake Orion, MI 48361.
FISH also assists people with personal hygiene items: shampoo/conditioner, shaving cream and razors, as well as basic staples such as cereal, soup, snack treats, garbage bags, Kleenex, and 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. Last year, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive collected more than 71 million pounds of food nationwide.
The Lake Orion Post Office is part of NALC Branch 320, which serves north Oakland County. Last year, the branch of eight offices was first in the nation for a union of their size, Thompson said.
For more information about the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, visit www.feedingamerica.org or www.nalc.org/community-servicefood-drive.
By Jim Newell