Merchants Bank kicked off the 33rd annual 10 Days of Giving food drive on Monday morning. The drive runs December 1-10 and benefits the food shelf programs operated by Winona Volunteer Services (WVS). Through the first 32 years, more than 4 million pounds of food have been collected. Co-chairs Jennifer Welch and Dave Pierret will be leading campaign efforts this year.

At the kick-off press conference were Merchants Bank Winona and Southern Regional President Andrew Guzzo, Winona Volunteer Services Executive Director Sandra Burke, Winona Mayor Scott Sherman and other participants. The drive was kicked off with a ceremonial first gift of food from Everly Wagner and Anastasia Welch, both in second grade, as well as a $500 donation from Engrav’s Decorating Center.

“It’s an honor to lead this effort year after year. We are so grateful to the Winona community for their generosity and hope that you’ll join us again in support of this worthy cause. It is so inspiring to see the involvement from schools and local businesses as well, given the continued need in our community,” said Guzzo.

Last year, the 10 Days of Giving campaign collected 265,529 pounds of food. Two pounds of food are calculated for each dollar brought in. One area that keeps improving is the amount of monetary donations that are brought in to support the drive.

“As a food shelf, our monetary dollars go farther at the grocery store than an individual’s,” said Burke. “What that means is, Winona Volunteer Services can purchase $50 worth of food with just $15 through resources such as the region’s food bank. Having sufficient funds helps us make sure we have the variety that the community needs.”

Burke said there continues to be a need in the area. Through 2020, an average of 597 households were registered for the supplemental food shelf at Winona Volunteer Services and more than 3,000 individuals were served. In total, WVS distributed 524,630 pounds of food.

The drive has also received a $10,000 donation in memory of Gina Craney by the Craney family, Sean, Erin and Steve.

Monetary donations can be made out to 10 Days of Giving and can be mailed to, or dropped off at Merchants Bank, 102 East Third Street, Winona, MN 55987. If you would like to make a donation online, visit the Winona Volunteer Services website www.winonavs.org/donate. Indicate “10 Days of Giving” after entering your name. The 10 Days of Giving food drive is an annual community collaboration between Merchants Bank and Winona Volunteer Services to make sure no one in Winona County goes hungry each winter.  In addition to the Winona drive, other Merchants Bank locations partner with their respective local food shelf in a similar effort. To learn more about the 10 Days of Giving in your area, visit www.merchantsbank.com/10daysofgiving.