STOCKING UP: Volunteers gather tons of food to distribute to local pantries

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Volunteers line up to help load boxes of food destined for food pantries. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — With the hot sun beating down, a dozen or so volunteers set up camp at the Greenfield Walmart parking lot on Saturday to conduct the annual Fill a Truck, Fill a Pantry event to collect food for the many food pantries throughout the county.

A blood drive was also being conducted at the same time.

Organizers say both were a great success.

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“We once again collected over 1,000 cases of food and distributed it to eight pantries in the county,” said Chief Brian Lott of the Greenfield Fire Territory, who directed this year’s food drive.

He credited volunteers from the Greenfield Rotary, Sertoma and Greenfield-Central High School for coming out to run the five-hour event. Students from Interact, the Rotary’s student club, were also there, sorting food into boxes and loading them into a semi-trailer.

“We had a couple of volunteers from Trinity Park United Methodist Church, and Keihin employees were also amazing help with forklifts and staff to unload and load trucks and trailers,” said Lott, who credited Walmart for providing use of the parking lot.

Carl Denny, the former Hancock Hope House director who first created the annual food collection, also contributed. “He sent over a semi load of food (from his 40,000 Pounds of Giving event) that greatly contributed to the numbers of cases of food we got,” said Lott.

The amount donated by the community was a actually down this year, said Lott, “which is to be expected due to unemployment. Next year we will probably work closer with businesses and corporations to participate in the program,” he said.

“I want to thank those who donated and helped with this year’s event. It takes several months of planning and volunteers to make the program work. The assistance is very much appreciated,” said Lott.

The food collected was sent to a number of places throughout Hancock County, including the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, Hancock County Food Pantry, Hancock County Meals on Wheels, Angel Connection and pantries at Brandywine Church, Shirley-Wilkinson United Methodist Church and Vineyard Community Church.

The soup kitchen’s director, Jill Ebbert, who was on hand at the collection Saturday, was grateful for the community’s outpouring of support.

“I’m overwhelmed at the blessings once more,” she said, while taking in some shade under a popup tent.

“Donations are a little bit lighter this year, but there’s still a whole lot of food here. I’m pretty sure when I go back I’ll have a full dining room,” she said.

Rotarian Monica Price was proud to see the community turn out for the dual-purpose event.

“I think it’s significant to see two causes come together, with the food drive and the blood drive, to provide two things that are essential to life. The support we’ve seen is definitely overwhelming,” she said.

The blood drive conducted through Versiti was again in honor of Riley Settergren, an Eastern Hancock High School student who was killed in a crash in July 2017.

His dad, Jay Settergren, was on hand Saturday thanking donors for their support as they left Versiti’s mobile blood center.

“The donations haven’t stopped,” said Settergren, as the event was winding to a close.

About 60% had made an online appointment, and the rest just stopped by, he said.

The great turnout was no surprise to Settergren, whose family has seen an outpouring of support.

“I think in general our community, Hancock County, has always had the reputation for taking care of their neighbors,” he said.

He was humbled that people would come out to give blood in honor of his son, answering a call for blood shortages throughout the country.