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Inner Southeast postal carriers gather bushels of groceries

by: David F. Ashton Doug Philips, Team Leader for the food-gathering event at the Creston Post Office, gets ready to help wheel another full tote of groceries into a waiting truck.

Most of us know our United States Post Office (USPS) letter carrier simply as a friendly face who delivers our mail and parcels.

But, on May 14, these men and women in blue joined other members of the National Association of Letter Carriers in their 'Stamp Out Hunger' effort, said to be the nation's largest single-day food drive.

Late that Saturday afternoon, things were picking up at the Creston Substation Post Office in Inner Southeast Portland, just off S.E. Foster Road, as letter carriers were returning from their routes - their delivery trucks laden with bags of shelf-stable foods.

'This is a great event,' said Oregon Food Bank (OFB) volunteer team leader Doug Philips with a smile.

'After letter carriers pick up the food donated by folks on their route, they come back here, to their local post office,' explained Philips.

Pointing to the volunteers who were busily sorting and packing food goods in the parking lot, Philips explained that these people were checking for out of date and damaged items, and packing individual food boxes, ready to be given away to people need by affiliates of the Oregon Food Bank.

'When we get inundated with donations, we put the packaged foods in these large totes; workers at the warehouse will sort through them, and re-box them.'

Eventually, Philips added, the food is trucked out to 20 regional food banks, and from there to 970 individual relief agencies in Oregon, and in Clark County, Washington.

'It's looking pretty good for this year,' remarked Philips. 'Last year, we ended up with 15 or 16 totes; so far we have eight totes filled and three pallets of packed boxes. And, most of the letter carriers haven't arrived back here yet.'

After the event was over, OFB spokesperson Jean Kempe-Ware said, of the day's efforts, 'Distribution of emergency food remains at record high levels. This drive is especially important during these difficult economic times, when so many of our neighbors have lost their jobs, savings, and homes.'

By the end of that day, the Creston Station had taken in 21,670 pounds of food - besting the Sellwood-Westmoreland office's 20,147 pounds of contributions.

You can support the efforts of the Oregon Food Bank Network any day, Kempe-Ware reminded. To learn more, call 503/282-0555, or visit their Internet website: www.oregonfoodbank.org/Donate .