COLUMBIA — Crowds of volunteers milled around the dock in the back of the Columbia post office on Saturday.
Around 70 volunteers unloaded and sorted food throughout the day as it was delivered by mail trucks and pickup trucks. Their effort was part of the 16th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers and the Central Missouri Food Bank.
The food drive is a national event, but local food banks, volunteers and letter carriers work to help their community each year.
Some volunteers handled the food at the post office, while others helped letter carriers pick food up from homes or helped barbecue to feed the volunteers.
“It’s a wide effort,” said Kevin Boyer, president of the Missouri State Association of Letter Carriers. “Everyone helps, from the letter carriers to the clerks, and even the managers to some degree.”
About 55,000 paper bags for food and envelopes for monetary donations were delivered last week to residents of Columbia and surrounding towns, said Mike Bruns, development supervisor with the food bank.
The food bank took in 120,000 pounds of food in the one day drive, Mike Desantis, the bank's marketing coordinator, said.
Last year, the Central Missouri Food Bank collected approximately the same amount of food and $12,000 dollars, Bruns said.
John Wampler, food driver coordinator, said he was impressed with how much they collected just in the early hours.
“When I showed up this morning, we already had about a tote and a half of food,” he said. A tote can hold between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds.
Wampler said there were individuals as well as people from organizations like Alpha Kappa Psi and Missouri Girls Town helping out.
Rose-Marie Muzika was volunteering at the food drive for the second year.
“(Volunteering’s) a basic human action,” she said. “It’s simple and important, and it helps define who we are as members of the community.”
Danny Betz, a retired postal worker, said he worked the first Letter Carrier’s Food Drive in 1992. He said the drive has been going a lot smoother recently than it did in the early years.
“The first couple of years, it was just mania,” he said. “No one knew what they were doing.”
Boyer said he feels Columbia is a great place to do a food drive, adding that he picked up food from a “good percentage” of the residences on his route.
“It’s an easy community to do it in,” he said. “I’ve never seen any place with so much community spirit.”
Boyer also sees the drive as an opportunity for letter carriers to bring some happy news to the community.
“People say we’re always bringing bad news. It’s all bills, bills, bills,” Boyer said.