[tapintowestorange.com] WEST ORANGE, NJ - While the holidays are a time of food, family and fun, there are many Essex County residents that struggle to put food on the table. The Gregory neighborhood in West Orange held their Fourth Annual Gregory Cares Food Drive on Dec. 14 and provided some cheer in the form of a whopping 6,000 pounds of non perishable items for the Holy Trinity-West Orange Food Pantry.
According to Amy Hains, one of the organizers, "Over 1800 flyers were delivered over 10 days by 30 volunteers, many who come back every year to help."
"Most volunteers bring their children along to hand out flyers so that they can discuss the need for food security and show kids how easy it is to give back," Hains continued.
After the flyers were distributed, the team sent reminders out on the Gregory Yahoo group and on Facebook. They also utilized an online sign up system that the team found to be helpful for planning the day of the Food Drive. Beginning at 9:00 am on Dec. 14, residents placed donated food on their doorsteps and volunteers drove door-to-door to pick them up. A rented truck was used to load the bags, which totaled well over 100 this year.
The truck arrived at the food pantry around 2:00 pm, where volunteers and additional Gregory neighborhood members arrived to help sort and pack the items in crates. The entire floor of Guild Hall was filled with bags of non perishables like soup, beans, vegetables, fruit, tuna, peanut butter and jelly, and much more.
Revs. Miguel Hernandez and Peter Jackson, along with Rev. Hernandez' wife Leonora, were on hand to help bring in the bags. "This is incredible," said Rev. Hernandez, as Rev. Jackson smiled ear-to-ear.
"The Gregory Cares Food Drive has overwhelmed us again," said Cynthia Cumming, Food Pantry Administrator.
"Their generosity is such a morale booster for us as we end another year at the pantry."
Feedback from Gregory neighbors has remained very positive over the past four years, which has seen an expansion in collection areas as well.
"Families really enjoy volunteering to help and neighbors love how easy we make it for them to donate food," said Hains.
"We would love to help other neighborhoods in West Orange develop similar food drives. Ethan Stambler, founder of the Food Drive, continues to be a huge help in planning," she noted.
In addition to the groceries, the Gregory School Fifth Graders collected toiletries and sorted them into decorated gift bags under the direction of Fifth Grade parent Sia Khalfani. Nearly 60 bags of items were assembled.
The fifth graders also collected coats, mittens and hats, and students watched videos about what hunger looks like in America. Michelle Thompson, Gregory Principal, has continued to be a huge supporter of the neighborhood's efforts to provide these much needed items to the Holy trinity-West Orange Food Pantry.
To find out more about holding a neighborhood food drive, contact Amy Hains at firstname.lastname@example.org.