The drive for the Food Drive

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The annual food drive two Saturdays from now is a beautiful tradition in St. Albert. It’s like the harvest, offering a chance to build up the stores at the food bank in the months leading up to winter.

It’s also a colossal volunteer effort, one that doesn’t always get the notice it deserves.

“So many people are not aware of what happens on that food bank drive day,” said Marian Rochford, the office manager at the Red Willow Community Church, which organizes the small army of helpers that drives out through every neighbourhood to collect the grocery bags of donated non-perishable food that citizens put out on their steps.

She says it’s a team of 300 people or more, not even counting the team of people that volunteers at the food bank. “It’s a big thing,” Rochford said.

Granted, a lot of them come from the church itself since the food drive is a passion for Red Willow, making the event one of the major things it does.

“But St. Albert has grown so much over the last couple of years that we now have about 115 routes that we have to do. We’re really now more dependent upon the St. Albert community to come out and help.”

For each of those routes, she needs to assign a driver and at least one runner, the person in the passenger seat who does all of the manual labour. Each team could have more than one runner depending on the size of the vehicle and the route. Each volunteer also gets a package including instructions, maps and a T-shirt.

For their efforts, the volunteers are also treated to a pizza lunch and a post-drive barbecue with hot dogs and refreshments.

As part of its community outreach and service to others, the church pays for everything.

“All the bags that go out door to door … we cover that cost. All the T-shirts … we cover that cost. All of that stuff … we cover.”

She said that it easily amounts to more than $5,000 but it’s well worth it when you consider the returns to the people of St. Albert.

“To organize that on that day, it’s hectic, but man, we’ve got it down to a science.”

Suzan Krecsy, the executive director at the St. Albert Food Bank, said that she’s got things down to a science on her end as well, but only needs a bare-bones contingent of a dozen or so experienced volunteers.

“It just runs so smoothly,” she said.

There, those volunteers manage the influx of traffic in the very snug parking lot on the east side of the building at 50 Bellerose Dr. The total weight of food brought in amounts to anywhere between 40,000 and 55,000 pounds on that day alone.

It’s a well-oiled machine all around but there are still positions to be filled to make it complete. Rochford hopes to get all of them filled as soon as possible so that the event runs as smoothly as it can be on Sat., Sept. 16, starting at noon.

Anyone who wants to offer their help on that day can contact Rochford by phoning 780-458-4644 ext. 0 or via email at office@redwillow.org.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.