|By Scott Leffler, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
They're not done by any stretch. With the cupboard nearly bare -- stock is down to less than 100 jars of peanut butter, jelly and Fluff left to distribute -- the fourth annual
"We had just got done doing 'Operation Christmas Child,' where you go out and you get gifts for kids from across the seas because they don't have Christmas," he said.
The good feeling that the co-workers got from helping inspired them to try doing something for people at home. One of the four had heard local food pantries were short on peanut butter, so the group decided to hold a peanut butter and jelly drive.
According to the latest Census, the youth poverty rate in
"There's so many people that want to help, and so many people that need help," Robinson said. "Mom and dad that are working two jobs each just trying to make ends meet. They go to these food pantries and they have to because that's the only way to supplement their income."
That first year, Robinson and his friends enlisted a small core of people to help. The core has grown over time, Robinson said, because people who get involved stay involved and recruit others to join.
An example is
"I got involved in the drive after meeting Pete and realizing that something so simple could be done to help a child of any age escape hunger," Sheley said. "I spend my days in schools seeing too many kids in need, right in my own community. It is my responsibility to help them, to do what I can."
Those involved say one of the reasons the drive works is its simplicity. It's easy to help.
"I can buy a jar of peanut butter and jelly. That is something many people can do," Sheley said. "A person of any age can grasp the concept of the drive and feel a sense of accomplishment pitching in to contribute to our mission."
And do they ever pitch in. Not content to wait for the "official" start of the 2013 drive, people have already brought jars in, Robinson said. One volunteer collected 122 jars outside
Now that the drive is in full swing, it will go at fever pitch until the official end,
"These calls are going to start coming in like crazy now," Robinson said.
The calls are not just from local folks looking to give or receive, either. Robinson and his team have fielded inquiries from
"They're all trying to duplicate what we're doing," he said.
While almost all of the jars collected locally stay local, one exception was made earlier this year when the group sent a bulk shipment of peanut butter and jelly to
One unique aspect of the drive, compared to other similar programs, is that there are no overhead or administrative costs to run it. The effort is managed completely through volunteer work and donations. Collected food is stored at
"Anonymous people stepped up and paid our bills for us," Robinson said. "That's huge. Who does that?"
"I love being a part of a community that cares and does something to solve a problem that should not exist," Sheley said.
Another thing that makes the drive successful is that is has managed to avoid turf wars and provincialism that can afflict event the best intended charities. According to Robinson, although the
"We're all on the same team. We might not always see eye-to-eye, but we do see in the same direction," he said.
PB&J collection sites
The fourth annual
BARKER: The 3
SANBORN: NCCC administrative building, culinary department and student center;
LEWISTON & NIAGARA FALLS: David's Home of the Steak Hoagy; Greg's Pools;
THE TONAWANDAS & WHEATFIELD: 1st
(c)2013 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)
Visit the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.) at lockportjournal.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services