By Melissa Blankenship
Since it began, the Post Office’s national Stamp Out Hunger campaign has collected over one billion pounds of food, amassing 74 million pounds last year alone. But locally, only about 10 pounds was collected last year and Eminence Postmaster John Donnelly wants to change that – in a big way.
“We’re hoping to get 1,000 pounds of food this year,” Donnelly said. “And I really think we can do it.”
The program is simple. Postal customers throughout the county are asked to place non-perishable food items in a sturdy bag either in their mailboxes or beside their boxes on Saturday, May 10, and put their flags up. Postal carriers will pick up all the donations, which will be taken to the Henry County Help Center.
“We’ll pick up whatever people will leave out for us,” Donnelly said. “Joe doesn’t turn down anything.”
Joe Durbin, the coordinator of the Henry County Help Center, is Donnelly’s source of inspiration and the reason he wants this year’s results to be so much more successful than last year’s.
“Joe has inspired me to do more,” Donnelly said. “You don’t realize how little you do until you see someone like him who is doing so much for his community.”
The Henry County Help Center opened last winter in one location – the former church across from the Eminence Post Office. Since then, Durbin has expanded his outreach efforts to include food banks in five locations throughout the county. He said he is humbled by Donnelly’s compliment and very appreciative of any assistance he can get because that means he can help more people in return.
“It’s going to allow us to give a little extra to the folks we’re helping,” Durbin said.
Currently, the center has served 980 people, 333 of those being children under the age of 18, and 104 single-person households that Durbin said were predominantly widows trying to get by on social security.
“The more we get, the more we can give,” Durbin said.
Confident in the people of Henry County to be generous, Donnelly has made a side bet with the postmaster in Shelby County.
“They have twice as many delivery stops as we do, but I hope we get more than half what they collect,” Donnelly said of Henry County’s 5000 stops. “It’s just a friendly competition, but I know we’ll win.”
The winner of this bet will enjoy lunch on the loser, but Donnelly said the real winners are the people of Henry County.
“There are so many people that need help, and so few people like Joe who will help them,” Donnelly said. “I just want to get more people to help Joe. We need more people like him.”
For more information on the Henry County Help Center, call Durbin at 777-0970 or visit the website henrycountyhelpcenter.org.