Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Winning Pottstown area hunger games

Less than two weeks remain in the Fill the Media Lab food drive, and the totals collected so far are less than halfway to our goal.
Let's put that in perspective: Against a goal of 20,000 food items, The Mercury and Town Square bloggers have collected 7,228 food items. Against a goal of 1,000 bottles of laundry detergent, 427 have been donated.
Forget those goals for a moment, and picture the amount of food that has been given to local food pantries since this drive started four weeks ago.
More than 7,000 cans of vegetables, boxes of oatmeal, packs of macaroni and cheese ... pasta, sauce, vegetables, beef stew, hot chocolate packets, Pop-Tarts ... peanut butter, jelly, cheese and crackers, cookies, noodles, soup.
Donations have been brought to the front desk of The Mercury. Some people, with trunkloads of bags and boxes, have knocked on our back door, looking for help to unload. Others have dropped off food at the many business and school locations throughout the area. And still others have donated to schools and churches who have partnered with bloggers in the food drive.
There is no prize for making goal in this drive, but there is incredible, unspoken reward.
We began this food drive as a cooperative effort with the Town Square Community Media Lab network of bloggers featured on The Mercury website. By partnering with the bloggers, we have been able to broaden the reach and focus attention on the drive. Some of them have even launched or sponsored their own collection efforts that have netted hundreds of items for the drive.
This drive is already a success for the awareness it has brought to the need for food in our region. Many people, myself included, who never gave to food pantries have now made pledges to give food on a regular basis to help those in need.
My pledge: Buy $10 worth of items every week during my regular grocery shopping and donate it to an ongoing good drive -- Fill the Media Lab! -- or drop it off at a food pantry like the Cluster Outreach Center, Norco Food Pantry or Boyertown Area Multi-service.
We have 11 days remaining to collect more than 10,000 food items and more than 500 bottles of detergent. But the glass is already half full, and the food pantries and those who are hungry in the Pottstown area have already benefited.
The greatest benefit, we believe, is in the ongoing drive to raise awareness of the hunger in our community and the importance of donating food now and in a continuing effort for local pantries.
Eleven days are left to fill the lab, and we appreciate and welcome whatever you can give.
Map of dropoff sites:

Here is a curated list of all blog entries on the food drive.

Read news of the food drive at PottsTownSquare.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fillin' the Media Lab: Updates

With emails and blog posts daily reporting contributions to the Fill the Media Lab community food drive, here's an update of where we stand:
As of Wednesday, 1,943 food items had been donated toward our goal of 20,000. Bottles of detergent collected were at 120 toward a goal of 1,000.
Evan Brandt, who blogs at Digital Notebook, delivered several cartons of granola bars, snack containers of macaroni and cheese, fruit cups and beefaroni to Project Backpack on Wednesday.
The Mercury facilities manager Bob Morris delivered several dozen bottles of detergent Thursday morning to the Boyertown Area Multi-Service, which reported a shortage of that item in their food pantry.
A large donation of food, as well as $100 from a single cash donation, will be delivered to the Cluster Outreach Center in Pottstown on Friday.
Map of dropoff sites:

Here is a curated list of all blog entries on the food drive.

Read news of the food drive at PottsTownSquare.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Back to biking to work

The return of daylight savings time and the fact that days are getting longer as spring approaches means one thing: Biking to work.
Today was my first day back on the trail. I wasn't prepared for the effect of the chill morning on ears, fingers and toes, but by the end of my eight-mile trek, I was warmed up.
What a great way to start a work day: Sun on my face, exercise, no traffic.
I'm back biking to work -- and lovin' it!

Friday, March 2, 2012

A little help goes a long way

Our challenge to "Fill the Media Lab" has taken on many twists in the past week, leading to bloggers, businesses and food pantries near and to readers afar.
We have one donation from a young woman in Ohio who heard about the drive waiting in a checkout line at The Dollar Store. (More about that later.)
We made a delivery Friday to the Pottstown Cluster Outreach Center of 136 food items, 3 shampoo-soap items and 24 bottles of detergent. These were just the items brought by individuals and by The Sanatoga Post blogger Joe Zlomek to our offices at Hanover and King streets. More items are being collected elsewhere.
We're trying to keep a count, so if your church or scout troop or business is collecting and taking items directly to the food pantry of your choice, please let us know the number of items so we can add to the list. The Challenge is for 20,000 items by Passover-Easter.
We know of collection sites set up at Schuylkill Valley Sporting Goods stores, Penn Liberty Bank in Limerick, Patt Veterinary and Pet Valu in Gilbertsville, Joe Paws in Boyertown, Pottstown Roller Mills, Evergreen Consignment Shop and Grumpy's Hand-carved Sandwiches at the Pottstown Farmer's Market.
There are others, and as we learn about them, we add to the map.
(See below)
The student council and the prep classes at St. Aloysius school and church are getting collection drives started.
Several churches, including First Presbyterian Church and the youth group of Zion's United Church of Christ, has current food drives in place that may get a boost from word spreading about the Challenge.
The items won't all be going to the Pottstown Cluster. Blogger Laura Catalano has written about the need at the Norco Food Pantry and has established a collection site at the Schuylkill River Heritage Area office at Riverfront Park. We will also designate next week's collections at The Mercury for the Norco pantry.
Our sister paper The Phoenix has profiled need at Project Outreach in Royersford and Spring City, and we will deliver items there in the coming weeks as well.
Boyertown Area Multi-Service was featured in a video this week on our website, and several collection sites in the Boyertown area are designating items for that pantry.
In fact, it was a Boyertown area reader Marlene Fisher who shared the story about Ohio.
Fisher's daughter, Cheryl Knudson, lives in Aurora, Ohio, and was talking to her mother on the phone about a visit planned this weekend. As they were chatting, Fisher mentioned about the food drive she had read in Monday's Mercury, particularly the part about laundry detergent being like "liquid gold" to families who can't afford it.
Knudson, who says her neighborhood "dollar store" has great bargains, decided to pick up some laundry detergent and bring it back with her to Boyertown to donate to our cause. As she was making her purchase of 10 bottles of detergent, the clerk commented on the quantity. Knudson recounted what her mother had told her from our news story.
"When I got to the part about the little girl who put aside a box of cookies in favor of getting soap for her clothes, the woman behind me said, 'Excuse me, can I give to that charity?' " Knudson recalled.
"I told her it was in Pennsylvania, but she insisted. She said she could write a check and I could bring it back with me."
Knudson phoned her mother from the store and they decided to have the check made out to a Pottstown church. The church could get the money to a food pantry.
That was Wednesday. Knudson drove from Aurora to her mother's home here on Thursday. On Friday, mother and daughter delivered 10 bottles of detergent and a $20 check.
Thanks to "Lauren" in the dollar store for joining our challenge.

For more on Fill the Media Lab, go to The Sanatoga Post, Positively Pottstown, 52 Ways to Wake Up a Week, and Tails of Two Dogs.

To donate, visit any of our bloggers' collection sites or bring food to The Mercury Community Media Lab, Hanover and King streets in Pottstown.