Tuesday December 18, 2012

BELLOWS FALLS -- What started as a single-company effort to assist Our Place Drop-In Center is about to conclude its second year as an extended collaboration.

Sonnax Industries, Inc. -- an employee-owned company -- began holding a seven-week food drive for Our Place at least 15 years ago and senior graphic designer Erica Wojchick thought it would be a good idea to involve other companies.

This year’s food drive is scheduled to end Wednesday with the collection of vegetables donated from employees of Sonnax, Sovernet, Vermed, The Current and The Whitney Blake Company. Big plastic tubs were placed at each of the companies on Wednesday, Oct. 31, the contents are collected by a different volunteer every seven days. Cash donations are also accepted.

Wojchick said each of the companies was enthusiastic about getting involved.

"Together, obviously, we can do a whole lot more than as an individual business," she told the Reformer. "I think we’ve done very well (this year). The momentum has been much steadier."

She said a record 60 bins were filled last year and the number has already exceeded 65 this year.

Lisa Pitcher, the executive director of Our Place, said she does not have any statistics of this year’s food drive but 191 families and more than 1,300 meals were served at the food pantry in November.

"It’s very valuable to the community," she said. "We couldn’t possibly, with our budgets, collect the food we need to distribute to people."

For the first time ever, each of the seven weeks bore a theme this year. The themes, in order, were kid lunches (granola bars, nuts, pretzels, tuna, etc.) Thanksgiving turkeys, Thanksgiving fixings (cranberry sauce, stuffing, jarred gravy, squash, etc.), fruit (fresh and canned), protein, whole grains and sauces, and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned). Each week spanned from Thursday to Wednesday.

Wojchick said the themes helped donors focus on what to buy.

"This is very important during this slow economy with lost jobs and with the cold weather approaching we always have those in our community who have to choose between heat and eat," Wojchick told the companies in an e-mail sent in October.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.