For the past several years, I have been the local coordinator for the National Letter Carriers' Food Drive -- now in its 21st year and taking place next Saturday, May 11 -- working with the local postmasters within our nine-town area to help them implement this annual, national food drive, the largest one-day food collection in the country.

More importantly, this is the largest and most important food drive of the year for our local food pantry, Loaves & Fishes. The hope is that the food collected on this day will supplement the day-to-day donations to the pantry at least through the summer, when we struggle to provide food for those who turn to Loaves & Fishes at a time when donations decrease considerably.

I appeal to each of you to reach out and help our neighbors who are suffering during these very difficult economic times and sadly must turn to Loaves & Fishes to feed their families. It takes only one visit to our food pantry virtually any time during the year to witness how very difficult it is to satisfy the many families who must rely on Loaves & Fishes. The current economic recession is affecting so many of our neighbors and more and more of them are turning to Loaves & Fishes for support. Most Groton residents aren't aware that there are in fact Groton families who depend on L&F, and with the current state of the economy and the high prices of fuel oil and gasoline, more and more families are sadly finding themselves having no other alternative than to turn to Loaves & Fishes in order to provide for their needs.

Groton, our potential to provide food to those less fortunate during this annual Postal Workers' Food Drive is huge! Being the largest and most affluent community that Loaves & Fishes serves, Groton, we can do better! The year-round need is tremendous at Loaves & Fishes, and the numbers of families who must rely on our local pantry continues to rise.

In order to encourage more residents to donate, plastic shopping bags are being provided this year by Price Chopper and will be mailed to Groton families and businesses. Please look for these in your mailbox during the week prior to the food drive.

I once again challenge all residents of Groton to respond generously this year, a year when Loaves & Fishes will be turned to more than ever to satisfy our neighbors in need, and encourage everyone to enthusiastically participate in the NALC Food Drive on Saturday, May 11. When your letter carrier arrives with your mail, he/she will pick up your bag(s) of food and at the end of their route and will bring it to the post office. If you have a P.O. box, you can simply bring your bag(s) of food directly to the post office on the morning of May 11.

I challenge each of you this year to put out at least one bag of food and/or toiletries by your mailbox on the morning of Saturday, May 11, to help our neighbors in need. You'll be amazed at how great it feels to donate and be part of this national effort to provide food to local pantries.

NANCY OHRINGER

Volunteer Local Coordinator

NALC Food Drive