Food shelf collection sets a record


A record collection of just shy of 90,000 pounds of food has been added to Winona County's Food Shelves during this year's "10 Days of Giving" Food Drive, it was announced Thursday by officials from Merchants Bank and Winona Volunteer Services.

"As usual, the response from the Winona community has been outstanding. Again this year, this food drive exceeded our expectations," said Sandra Burke, the Executive Director of Winona Volunteer Services, which operates the food shelf programs for most of Winona County. "We simply would not be able to assist our food shelf clients without the generosity of all of the people who support this project every year."

While a modest amount of wrap-up work is expected to continue through Christmas, Merchants Bank issued the final Food Drive report on Thursday, with officials declaring the Food Drive a success because of the involvement of an "awesome community."

The final 2003 "10 Days of Giving" collection total was 89,813 pounds of food. It marked the fourth time in the 15-year history of the "10 Days of Giving" Food Drive that more than 60,000 pounds of food has been collected in support of Food Shelf programs operated for Winona County. It also easily surpassed last year's record collection total of just over 80,000 pounds.

"I've been here long enough now to not be surprised by the generosity of the people in this community," said Merchants Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Rod Nelson. "We've been hearing that in just about every other community, food drives are falling short of their goals. The effort here has just been outstanding. This is an awesome community."

A total of 42,375 pounds of actual food items was contributed as part of the "10 Days of Giving" this year. That is actually a slight decrease (3%) from last year. Monetary contributions, however, increased 26% from a year ago to a total of $23,719.37. Using a formula of calculating two pounds of food for each dollar, the final Food Drive collection total was 89,813 pounds. Last year's Food Drive total was 81,650 pounds.

According to Burke, the money is important because while the actual food that now presently resides on the shelves will help ensure that no one in Winona County goes hungry this winter, Winona Volunteer Services will be in a better position to purchase necessary food items to supplement existing supplies and later in the spring when food supplies have diminished.

While Merchants Bank provides the leadership and volunteer coordination for the annual Food Drive, Nelson said the Bank's partners -

all area schools and more than 70 partnering businesses - are the ones who bring in the food.

"We are sincerely grateful for the involvement of all of our partners on this project," Nelson said. "The students of our local schools, so many generous families and individuals, and business leaders are all what make this an unbelievably compassionate community. It's very rewarding to know that our work will help make sure that nobody in Winona County goes hungry this winter."

A total of 30 Winona area schools and Day Care providers from around Winona County and more than 70 businesses par-ticipated in this year's Drive. All contributions of food and cash have been forwarded to the Food Shelf programs operated for Winona County by Winona Volunteer Services and the Southeastern Minnesota Rural Education & Resource Center in St. Charles.

The food collected as part of this year's Drive has pushed the 15-year "10 Days of Giving" total to nearly 700,000 pounds of food.

Co-Chairs for this year's Food Drive planning committee were Sue Spiten, Mortgage Operations Officer, and Jim Bruner, Commercial Loan Officer, for Merchants Bank in Winona.


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