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Volunteers Collect Food for Needy

More than 2,500 pounds donated to UCM.

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St. Luke's Coat Room was filled with donations of food from the Mt. Vernon Community for UCM's food pantry. Mt. Vernon-area volunteers coordinated food drives covering more than 130 streets and neighborhoods in thr area

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The Rev. Lynda Hergenrather, priest associate at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, assists Nina and Dean Shute in loading one of seven trucks with food.

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Fifteen volunteers work to unload the collected UCM food from the trucks to UCM's pantry on Fordson Road. Damp, cold weather didn't deter the Neighbors Helping Neighbors volunteers while unloading food at UCM.

When the United Community Ministries (UCM) announced that it fed as many people in the month of January 2009 as it fed in all of 2007, the Mt. Vernon community mobilized to help. With the support of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s Outreach Committee, more than 40 Mt. Vernon community volunteers, and the donations of thousands of families, the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Drive for UCM was launched.

More than 40 community volunteers coordinated a food drive in each of their own neighborhoods to collect food for the UCM food pantry on Fordson Road. These volunteers collected over 2,500 pounds of canned food from more than 130 streets and neighborhoods in the Mt. Vernon area.

St. Luke’s church offered its narthex to hold the food while it was being collected and waited to be delivered. After a few weeks, the furniture in the room had to be removed to accommodate the large amount of food collected.

When asked about the benevolence of the community, the Rev. Tuck Bowerfind, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Rector said, "The great help from the community made it possible. It shows that when we as a community recognize a real need we can do amazing things."

Following the 10 a.m. service on Sunday, March 1, the collected food was delivered to UCM in seven filled trucks and cars. An additional five car-loads of food were delivered directly to UCM by various volunteer community coordinators later that day.

"I was impressed by the spirit of generosity and aura of selflessness while we all worked together," said volunteer Caroline Baucom.

Because of those volunteers, many families in the area may have enough food to sustain them for the rest of this winter and spring. "The food in the St. Luke's Narthex was a beautiful display of the generosity of our community, but the true beauty of this effort will be shown when the food is in the cupboards of those in need," said Zelda Shute, the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Drive coordinator.

In response to the donation, Cynthia N. Hull, UCM executive director, said, "For 40 years local faith communities have been supporting UCM's mission to help the less fortunate among us. Never in all those years have we faced an economic crisis like the one that challenges us now. Many days the line to receive emergency food at UCM is the length of the building, heartbreakingly reminiscent of the bread lines during the Great Depression. Responding to those needs, parishioners from St. Luke's Episcopal Church went beyond their always-generous food drives and asked their neighbors to support the effort, as well. By neighbor reaching neighbor, over 2,500 pounds of food for UCM's food pantry was donated, meaning many families in our community will know the security of the nourishment of their bodies and their sense of hope that others truly care."

<b>By Dean Shute </b>

Neighbors Helping Neighbors volunteer