While the downturn in the economy continues to affect millions around the country, needy families in the North Country should know that a federal effort, which includes Fort Drum personnel, is extending a helping hand to the community this summer.
Last week, the installation kicked off the 2011 Feds Feed Families, an annual campaign coordinated by the Office of Personnel Management that asks federal employees for summertime donations of nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies and daily hygiene items, such as diapers, deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo.
Organizers of the initiative, which benefits local food banks, encourage the post community to drop off donated items in designated boxes at the Fort Drum Commissary, the Exchange, Clark Hall, Army Community Service, McEwen Library and Mountain Community Homes community centers.
“We are fortunate, very fortunate," said Hal Greer, Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. "Some of our citizens find themselves in need due to circumstances that they don’t control. Sharing with them is a hallmark of our proud American character.
"It’s time to give as much as we can,” he added.
Food banks around the country are facing severe shortages this summer, making it especially hard for families that rely on school nutrition programs, federal officials said. To mitigate hardships, dozens of departments from the CIA to the FDA to the EPA are looking to gather 2 million pounds of food by Aug. 31.
The DoD has set a goal of 733,800 pounds – one pound for every civilian worker.
“We hope you will join us in meeting this challenge to help local families in need," said Laura Oakes, FMWR marketing. "Look for the yellow boxes to make your donation, and make a difference in your community.”
Last year, the national campaign skyrocketed past its goal of 1.2 million pounds in donations and accumulated a total of 1.7 million pounds.
For the project, officials have compiled a list of 11 "Most Wanted Items."
They are grains, such as rice, oatmeal and pasta; canned proteins, such as tuna, peanut butter and beans; all-natural juice boxes; condiments, such as ketchup, mustard and salad dressings; canned fruit in light syrup or its own juices; low-sodium canned vegetables; multigrain cereals; canned soups; individually wrapped snacks; cleaning supplies, such as napkins and paper towels; and hygiene items.
FMWR's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers is spearheading all logistical support for the project by emptying the boxes three times a week, weighing the items and storing them in a warehouse for distribution to the installation chaplain and local food pantries, including the Watertown Urban Mission.
BOSS's president, Brandon Smith, who oversees a staff of five Soldiers, said because he often passes the Watertown Urban Mission and observes dozens of people in line waiting outside for food, he feels honored to participate in the program.
"Personally, I've gone without work," Smith said. "I know how hard it can be to find a job. This (program) is such a good way to help with the economy doing so bad and all this fear about the drought down south and (how that will affect) food production.
"I'm fortunate," he added, "so I'm definitely proud to be able to help out other people who are less fortunate."
The Feds Feed Families program grew out of the United We Serve program, a recent federal campaign that urges Americans to contribute to the nation’s economic recovery by helping their communities.
Fort Drum's organizers of the Feds Feed Families initiative will be officially recognized Sept. 1 during the "Fort Drum Rides the River" event in Clayton, sponsored by FMWR and the Northern New York-Fort Drum chapter of the Association of the United States Army.
The event will entail a full day of tours and family entertainment, including admission to and a guided tour of Clayton's Antique Boat Museum, a guided tour of La Duchesse house boat, a picnic lunch at the museum, trolley rides to and from parking areas, antique boat rides on the river, musical performances, magic shows and a rock wall tower for climbing.
FMWR buses will begin departing Magrath Sports Complex at 9 a.m. Sept. 1. The last bus will leave Clayton at 4:30 p.m.
Organizers said a limited supply of advanced tickets will go on sale Monday at Magrath Sport Complex and McEwen Library. Tickets for adults cost $5; children, ages 6 to 12, cost $3; and children 5 and younger are free.For more information about the Feds Feed Families program or FMWR/AUSA "Fort Drum Rides the River," call 772-6622 or 772-2154.