The National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive will take place on the second Saturday in May.
For El Reno, the tradition has seen huge success over the last several years. Collected food is given to The Lord’s Harvest, a group that will share the food with the community throughout the summer.
A few days before the event, letter carriers will drop off empty food bags at the homes and businesses they deliver mail to. People then fill the bags with non-perishable food items (no glass containers), and the letter carriers pick the bags up on May 11.
Around 20 rural and city postal workers will be covering the charity on their routes, along with half a dozen post office volunteers. After a breakfast provided by McDonald’s, the letter carriers will hit the streets at 8 a.m. and collect the bags late into the afternoon. Later that day, The Lord’s Harvest will pick up the food from the post office dock.
Janice Cox, a postal carrier from Yukon, is the food drive coordinator. She has been a letter carrier for 19 years, including when she lived in Arkansas. When she arrived in El Reno, the post office had already been doing the drive in some capacity, but she wanted to help expand it so the food could reach many more hungry mouths.
“When we are out in the community, we see people struggle with hardships,” said Cox. “It’s good to help people by giving back to the community.”
She also has high praise for El Reno as a place where people come together to help those in need.
“We really appreciate everyone donating to their local food bank. I love my customers and I love working here. Though I don’t live in El Reno, I still feel like I’m a part of it.”
The Lord's Harvest has been in operation as an El Reno food bank for 21 years. Though they are based in El Reno, they also serve communities in Okarche, Calumet, Union City, Hinton and Cedar Lake. The organization is made up of around 63 volunteers, 10 of whom work with the post office for the national food drive. The volunteers have helped thousands of individuals over the years, collecting food and then distributing it through several different programs. Most of the beneficiaries are families who turn to Community Action Agency for assistance. Some of The Lord’s Harvest food programs require referrals and income verification, but the group also has a sandwich program where citizens can walk in and collect the food directly.
Food from the postal drive usually feeds people for about three months, and anything left over goes to other local charities.
“We really hope everyone participates in the food drive 100 percent,” said Nikki Pruitt, director of The Lord’s Harvest. “It’s always such a blessing when food comes in, and it really goes to people that are so much in need. We’d like to thank people in advance for contributing to such a great thing, as well as the post office people who donate their time for the needs of the community.”
Items that can be donated to the drive include soup, rice and beans, peanut butter, and all manner of canned goods and non-perishable food. Community members are asked to leave food out early in the morning, though it can also be dropped off at the post office at a later time.
The Lord’s Harvest usually receives between 5,000 and 7,000 pounds of food per year from the postal drive.