By Katina Caraganis

MediaNews

SHIRLEY -- The Shirley Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Venture came together and collected more than 1,800 pounds of food donated by Shirley residents to bring to Loaves and Fishes to help with the holidays as part of the 22nd annual Scouting for Food drive.

Loaves & Fishes provides food and temporary support services to residents in Ayer, Shirley, Devens, Groton, Harvard and Littleton while helping its clients to be independent and self-reliant.

Joyce Reischutz, who has worked with the scouting program for years, said that while all the kids in the program came together, it would not have been nearly as successful without the help of citizens.

"Really the big thanks goes to the citizens of Shirley who were so generous. Without their generosity, it wouldn't be as good. That's the big thing," Reischutz said Wednesday afternoon.

The first Sunday in November, the scouts go around to every home in Shirley to drop off bags and then the weekend after, they go back to every home to pick up the bags filled with food.

"We try to go to every house and pick it up. The firemen are nice enough to let us drop off there. This is a total volunteer effort on everyone's part and people put in a good number of hours driving around town," she said.

Once the food is picked up, the scouts go to the fire station to sort all of the food into various categories.

"I think it's a big thank you to everyone who contributes. We get some quality donations. It's evident that people just didn't empty out their cupboards. I think it might be unique in that very little of what we get is out of date," she said.

Reischutz said that it's really up to the kids to run this whole day, from stapling the bags together to organizing all the bags, and then being a part of both Sundays.

Additionally, they are instrumental in boxing and sorting all of the canned goods before bringing them to the food bank.

The fire department used to collect food donations for residents but it eventually became too difficult to continue.

"The firemen ran an in town food donation program. It was very simple. If you knew that your neighbor had lost their job and things were pretty tight in that house, you could call for yourself or someone else could call for you," she said. "The firemen would just drop off the food. It just got to be too much for the firemen. It's people helping people. No one group could do it without the other. We're totally dependent on each other."

Any family wishing to make a donation can still bring things to the fire station or directly to Loaves and Fishes.

"People are so generous. We never have a small bag. It's usually filled to the top," he said.