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Naperville letter carriers’ yearly food drive smashes old record

<p>@NALC_National</p>

@NALC_National

It was the best one yet.

Even in the midst of pre-drive optimism, local organizers of the yearly National Association of Letter Carriers’ food drive didn’t imagine the results they would see from this year’s effort.

Cautiously hoping just to best their old record of 50,000 pounds of donated food, volunteers from NALC 1151 wound up collecting more than 80,000 pounds of nonperishable goods Saturday for the Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry in Naperville during their annual Stamp Out Hunger pickup from Naperville’s 65,000 homes.

“The amount of food we received was staggering,” Jody Bender, the agency’s director of community engagement, said in an email Tuesday. “Yesterday, 60 volunteers were on site sorting so that we could open the aisles for client shopping. Another 50,000 pounds has been taken offsite and we will have volunteer crews sorting there to complete it by Saturday.”

Organizers affiliated with NALC, all of whom donate their time to plan and carry out the yearly collection, had set a goal of 55,000 pounds. That would have been more than twice the amount brought in during last year’s drive, and 10 percent above the 50,000-pound record set in 2009.

Their hopes were boosted a bit when an anonymous donor provided some 54,000 bags emblazoned with the Stamp Out Hunger logo, which went out to residents last week. Bender said the specialized bags usually encourage larger quantities of donation.

Calling the results “a dream come true,” Bender especially credited the hard work put in by drive coordinator Maria Espinosa, a 23-year letter carrier; Lyphus Stevenson, president of NALC 1151; and all the volunteers who did the heavy lifting.

“The carriers were more enthusiastic than I have ever seen them, and those who brought their trucks to offload during their Saturday shifts were jubilant at what their route customers left for them,” Bender said. “In many cases, trucks were packed to capacity, and even in the front section near the carriers, when routes were only partially completed.”

Kenneth Kronberg, the Naperville postmaster, was a major backer of the volunteers’ toil on the yearly project.

“Postmaster Kronberg’s support of their efforts was critical, and he emphasized that he was fully invested in the program, especially after touring Loaves & Fishes during an early planning meeting,” Bender said.

Loaves & Fishes, the largest hunger relief agency in Naperville, has seen unprecedented client volumes in recent years. The pantry provides food to about 600 households in and around Naperville every week, and about half of its clients are children.

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