Food drive nets 75,000 pounds

On a cold wintery day, 89-year-old Hamiltonian David Watts stood at his accustomed spot helping to deliver the hundreds of pounds of food donations into St. Johnʼs Parish Hall.

He has been helping out the Ancaster Food Drive for 22 years, since the event began, and he isnʼt stopping now.

“I have been doing it every year,” said Watt, who was focused on his job barely stopping to chat. Ancaster Food Drive organizing committee member Jan Lukas calls Watt a treasure.

“He is a unique personality,” said Lukas. “He has a spot that he has never given up all these years. And itʼs the same spot.”

“He was there the next day as well quietly telling people where they should go to move the food for the agencies,” she said.

But that hard work ethic, and careful determination could describe the over 500 volunteers who turned out to collect 75,000 pounds of food Feb. 22 during the annual food drive, sorting the bundles, bags and boxes of canned goods, cereal and pasta, and delivering it to the seven area agencies in need. A day before the Feb. 22 food drive, Lukas tweeted she needed a few more volunteers. The next day three local hockey teams turned up ready to work.

“Itʼs really wonderful seeing all the people coming together, the Lions Club, the Girl Guides, the students, working to help the community. It was a wonderful weekend.”

And working side-by-side with the Lions Club members and Ancaster Community Service representatives were MP David Sweet and his wife Alma, MPP Ted McMeekin, Mayor Bob Bratina and his wife Carol, Police Chief Glenn DeCaire and Fire Chief Tim Simmons, along with members from Fire Stations 20 and 21 as they sorted and packed food.

“The community really needs to see what happens here,” said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson, who was also slinging cans of soup into boxes. “Itʼs became a signature event for the town. Everybody comes out, meet people, and help out their neighbours.”

Jim LoPresti, co-chair of the Ancaster Food Drive, says a person has to see the operation to really understand what happens. It has become after 22 years “a well-oiled machine.” Vehicles drive up to the parish hall, unload their food into the waiting arms of people like Watts, who then whisk the food into the hall and onto tables where itʼs sorted, picked up and deposited into boxes. The boxes are then weighted, then taped shut, and stacked against a nearby wall. The wall soon vanishes as the boxes keep piling up.

“Itʼs a great sight to see,” said LoPresti, as he looks over the hall floor seeing the volunteers hard at work.

Local businesses have also chip in providing food to the volunteers, such as coffee, hot chocolate, pastries, sandwiches, egg rolls, and other snacks during the day, which is finished early in the afternoon.

Lukas said the food drive was purchasing some fresh food from a local farm with some of the donations provided, a particular need for the areaʼs food banks, such as Neighbour To Neighbour, and Mission Services. Other donations came from a bakery that donated Italian cakes, and bananas from a grocery.

Lukas said the agencies picked up their donations Feb. 24, and were appreciative of the food,
especially at this time of year when donations are spotty, and their shelves are looking bare.

“They were really thankful,” she said. “They all admitted they were running low.”

But the donations — each agency receives about 12,000 pounds of food — will only keep the shelves filled until Easter at the latest.

The 75,000 pounds didnʼt reach the record setting 82,500 pounds of food collected last year, but organizers are still ecstatic over the donations the community made. Over the 22 years in operation, the drive has collected 1,278,000 pounds of food.

“We are thrilled to get that amount,” said Lukas.

On Feb. 24, members of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their fans came out to Buffalo Wild Wings to raise money and drop off some food for the Food Drive. Some of them didnʼt know about the food drive, but were eager to participate.

“It was just wonderful,” said Lukas.

After a well-deserved break, the organizing committee will be preparing for next yearʼs event, scheduled for February 2015.