PITTSTON — A can of peas here, a box of spaghetti there, another can and another box , and bit by bit Nancy LaNunziata watched her storeroom fill up.
The cook at the Meals on Wheels of Greater Pittston awaited the flood of foodstuffs Saturday as the National Association of Letter Carriers held its 22nd annual food drive.
Throughout the day U.S. Postal Service trucks and pickup trucks of postal service retirees pulled into a marked-off area in front of the Meals on Wheels on South Main Street and volunteers unloaded into shopping carts bags of donated foods carriers collected on their routes. They wheeled in the donations to be sorted and then stacked in the storeroom.
“There was nothing on the shelves. The reason I know this is because I washed them down,” LaNunziata said.
She’ll use the food to prepare 50 to 60 daily meals delivered to home-bound people, many of them elderly.
The cooking will begin again Monday. The task at hand was putting things in place.
“It’s tons,” LaNunziata said of the amount of donated goods.
Last year, the drive brought in 13 tons of food, added Russ Miller, vice president of the local Meals on Wheels organization. This year looked to be on track to exceed that amount.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” Miller said.
The nonprofit organization receives monetary donations to purchase fresh food for the meals and accepts food items throughout the year. It depends upon the drive to replenish its stock of staples. It’s been a recipient from the start.
“This is our 22nd year,” said Louise Smith, the organization’s president.
From her desk she watched over binders containing sign-in sheets for volunteers and carriers dropping off donations.
Help came from a variety of sources including, the Methodist Church of West Pittston, Immaculate Conception in West Pittston, the Second Presbyterian Church of Pittston, Boy Scout Troop 285 from Duryea and Troop 352 in West Pittston, the Builder’s Club of Pittston Area school district, the Key Club of Wyoming Area high school, and the United Steelworkers.
Brooke Neyman, 12, a sixth-grader at the Pittston Area Middle School, pitched in as a member of the Builder’s Club. Her friend, Shelbi Morrell, also 12, joined her.
“We do this every year,” said Bill Herbert of the United Steelworkers local 5652 in Wilkes-Barre. He shows support for the unionized letter carriers and gives something back as well. “You’re helping out the community,” Herbert said.
Benjamin Smith of local 15253 in Wilkes-Barre is newcomer.
“This has been my second year up here,” Smith said.
“It’s a good feeling,” he added. Even with all the problems the people in Northeastern Pennsylvania face, they’ve been supportive of the food drive. “They are giving,” Smith said.
USPS employee Paul Gottlieb drove up from the nearby Pittston Post Office on Dock Street with a delivery taken from two trucks he unloaded.
“It’s been very busy,” Gottlieb said.
The carriers have 30 to 40 houses in a block and can’t fit the donations into their satchels of mail, he explained. So they’ve been making piles along their routes and coming back to pick up the items. Any time beyond their eight-hour shift is donated to make sure the donations are collected, he said.
In Scranton, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, accompanied a carrier on his route in the city’s Green Ridge section.