Walk & Knock withstands cold

Event draws 128 tons of food, 4,500 volunteers on chilly day

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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Despite freezing temperatures, more volunteers turned out for the annual Interservice Walk & Knock food drive on Dec. 7 than organizers expected. There were 4,500 people scooping up food donations from snowy streets and icy porches that Saturday morning, Walk & Knock President Roxie Olsen said.

But there's no denying that the bitter cold and snow on the roads depressed donations overall.

"It is a bit lower but it was cold," said Roxie Olsen, president of the all-volunteer annual food drive. "The volunteers were upbeat and a warm smile was shared by many. Frontier Middle School opened their cafeteria to sort the food …at no cost to Walk & Knock."

Olsen reported that 128 tons of food were collected. That's a far cry from last year's haul of 152 tons, and significantly lower than the all-time record, 162 tons, set in 2009, when the Great Recession was at its height.

The economy may be on the mend, but plenty of folks have still been left behind, Olsen and other organizers have said. Walk & Knock aims to relieve some of their hunger by stocking up local food pantries during winter months.

The tallying isn't quite done yet, Olsen

said. In addition to the single-day event, numerous local businesses have hosted collection barrels that will bolster the total. There'll be some cash donations to report as well, she said.

One key success, Olsen added, is that professional truck drivers and trucking companies who volunteered their services and their rigs for Walk & Knock did not get penalized for spending too much time on the road. There was some concern in the run-up to the event that new federal regulations limiting driver time behind the wheel — in order to avoid fatigue and accidents — could result in drivers or companies forfeiting their regular work or even getting fined for violating the regulations.

That didn't happen, Olsen said.