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.
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.