Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

Linkedin Pinterest

Retired letter carrier is back to lead food drive

Annual haul has fallen since he left the field in 2009

By , Columbian Arts & Features Reporter
Published:
4 Photos
Former mail carrier Don Young is still retired -- but he's returned as a volunteer to coordinate this Saturday's food drive by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Former mail carrier Don Young is still retired -- but he's returned as a volunteer to coordinate this Saturday's food drive by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Photo Gallery

o The National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive, which takes place Saturday, is the largest single food drive in the United States, collecting nearly 73 million pounds in 2014.

o That makes 1.3 billion pounds since the drive began in 1992.

o A majority of the nation’s 175,000 letter carriers participate, according to NALC, along with many volunteers and charitable agencies.

o Clark County’s largest local food drive is Walk and Knock, always the first Saturday in December.

Anybody who works to alleviate hunger will tell you the need isn’t declining. According to nationwide nonprofit Feeding America, there are upward of 66,000 “food insecure” people in Clark County — people who don’t always have access to sufficient and nutritious food.

What has been declining, though, is the total tonnage of food donations brought in during the annual National Association of Letter Carriers food drive, which takes place this Saturday.

o The National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive, which takes place Saturday, is the largest single food drive in the United States, collecting nearly 73 million pounds in 2014.

o That makes 1.3 billion pounds since the drive began in 1992.

o A majority of the nation's 175,000 letter carriers participate, according to NALC, along with many volunteers and charitable agencies.

o Clark County's largest local food drive is Walk and Knock, always the first Saturday in December.

“Unfortunately, it’s been down the last four, five, six or so years,” said James Fitzgerald, operations director at the Clark County Food Bank. That’s especially unfortunate because stockpiled supplies and the cycle of seasonal giving both reliably dry up at this time of year. Charity always soars in the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas window, Fitzgerald said, but it always sags afterwards too. Meanwhile, bellies remain just as hungry over the summer as during winter, he said.

That’s why the National Association of Letter Carriers always holds its annual food drive on the second Saturday in May, according to longtime local organizer Don Young. And it’s why Young, who retired in 2009 after 43 years as a letter carrier, has returned this year to retake the reins in Clark County.

“I love doing this and I understand how it works,” said Young, who coordinated the NALC food drive here for 14 years. Plus, he said, he’s one of those retirees who needs “to be doing something all the time,” he said.

So, this week, Young and Fitzgerald teamed up to go pound a few food-drive signs into the ground at the busy intersection of Northeast Andresen Road at Padden Parkway. They were finishing up the rounds that Young had already made with his wife, Cindy, positioning or distributing 100 signs in all, from Vancouver’s west side out to Washougal.

This is the first year the local NALC food drive has used road signs to remind passing motorists that the big day is coming, Young said.

“I was so glad to hear Don was coming back out of retirement to help with this,” said Fitzgerald. When Young was leading the effort, he said, totals were reaching as high as 165,000 pounds in a year. Without Young, the donations fell to just around 100,000 pounds, he said. Young has also worked to coordinate the effort in rural north Clark County so donations are funneled directly to Battle Ground’s North County Community Food Bank, which has been “really hurting” this year, he said.

What to do

Here’s how you can help.

Biodegradable yellow plastic bags will be distributed to every mailbox in Clark County this week, Young said, thanks to $38,000 in support from Wells Fargo, a major event sponsor.

On Saturday, fill that bag — or any sturdy bag, paper or plastic — with nonperishable food donations and place it beside your mailbox before your regular Saturday mail delivery (before 9 a.m. is best, Young said).

Your mail carrier — or well-marked volunteers, in some cases — will see that the donation gets safely to the central Clark County Food Bank or to your local food pantry, which will see that it gets safely to hungry people right here in Clark County.

Keep in mind that it’s also a regular working day for mail carriers, whose overall routes might go a little slower than usual due to the additional haul. If your bag gets missed for some reason, Young said, please put it out again on Monday or take it to your local post office. (Making sure the bag is visible from the street helps it not get missed, he added.)

Among the best items to donate are: high-protein foods such as canned meats, canned fish and canned beans; canned fruits and vegetables; whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole-grain cereal and whole-wheat pasta; soups, chili and stews; peanut butter; unsaturated cooking oils; and other healthy-choice foods. Consider low-fat and low-sodium choices when you shop.

Please, no rusty or unlabeled cans, glass containers, perishable items, homemade items, noncommercial canned or packaged items, expired products, alcoholic beverages, mixes or soda, or open or used items.

Loading...

Commenting is no longer available on Columbian.com. Please visit our Facebook page to leave comments on local stories.