COLUMBIA — Letter carriers picked up more than just mail on Saturday.
In addition to their usual load, they carried bags of donations for the annual food drive put on by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. letter carriers gathered about 25,000 pounds of food — nearly an entire semitrailer full — and $7,000. That was just in Columbia, and not all donations had been gathered yet, said Rachel Ellersieck, a representative of the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
The food drive took seven months to plan. Last week more than 144,000 donation bags were delivered to almost every residential post office customer in Columbia and 14 surrounding cities.
About 90 mail carriers gathered the food and money Saturday, and Ellersieck said more donations will trickle in for the next week and a half. Ellersieck said every dollar donated buys 17 pounds* of food because they can buy and store food in bulk.
Over the course of the day, about 100 volunteers from different clubs and civic groups helped by unloading food from trucks. Some volunteers even drove their own vehicles on parts of mail routes with a lot of food to collect.
Kathleen Bryant, a theater major at Stevens College, volunteered for the food drive for the first time this year with classmates.
“We have the time, have the energy; we might as well do it. And it’s fun,” Bryant said.
Bryant and her classmates sang with good cheer as another packed mail truck arrived for unloading.
Jeffry Connell, state food drive coordinator for Missouri and a city letter carrier in Columbia, said the success of the food drive is thanks to work of the letter carriers.
In Columbia, many carriers bagged food in grocery stores throughout the week to promote the cause. Others stood on street corners with signs reminding passersby of the drive.
Connell said because of the extra weight, instead of walking mail to 20 or 30 houses in a loop, carriers can sometimes only get to seven or eight before having to take food back to their trucks.
“It’s a rough day, I’m not gonna lie, but at the end of the day you have a good feeling,” said Columbia letter carrier Joyce Bauer.