NORTH ADAMS -- True to their motto, Northern Berkshire letter carriers would not stop for Saturday's rainy weather, and the area's residents showed their generosity as the 22nd annual "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive gathered more than 23,000 pounds of food for area pantries.
With roughly 21,000 pounds collected in last year's drive, this weekend's effort had already surpassed that mark, with more donations expected in the next few days.
"We always have some late donations for one reason or another, and we expect that [23,000 pounds] to climb in North Adams and all the communities in Northern Berkshire," said Al Nelson, of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative, on Sunday. "I do think that in the next few days, especially Monday, that with the late donations, Northern Berkshire will reach or exceed 26,000 pounds."
Nelson is one of the cadre of organizers and volunteers who, with members of the Berkshire County Letter Carriers Branch No. 286 delivering, handle the influx of food items during the drive at sorting depots in Adams, North Adams and Williamstown.
The annual drive sees residents leave out bags of non-perishable food before Saturday's regular mail delivery, which postal workers in Adams, North Adams, Clarksburg, Florida and Williamstown gather and transport back to the centers.
Nelson was among roughly 60 volunteers working Saturday in the North Adams sorting station at 107 Main St., a space donated by Scarafoni Associates, from roughly 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and he said the other stations had banner days as well.
In addition to the 13,150 pounds deposited at the North Adams site, where one postal truck alone returned with 1,000 pounds of food, Adams saw 5,500 pounds and Williamstown weighed in with 4,500 pounds.
The final tally will benefit the work of the Louison House in Adams; Friendship Center Food Pantry, Salvation Army, Berkshire Food Project and Dream Center in North Adams; and Williamstown Food Pantry at the Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish Center in Williamstown.
Nelson credited some of the increase in this year's yield to promotion of the event.
"I must say that the letter carriers distributed bags throughout all of Berkshire County, and it was sponsored by Price Chopper," he said. "I think that made a difference. There were instructions on the bags and people certainly did use them."
Nelson gave credit to the residents who donated food and those who gave time at the sorting centers, but he also singled out the postal workers who brought in the goods.
"Hats off to the letter carriers who had a difficult day at times," he said. "It was a wet day at times. The letter carriers had their work cut out for them and they did great."
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