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The Oregonian: Meet a mother who needs your help

May 9, 2013
By Susannah Morgan and Shawneen Betha

The opportunity to make a difference comes right to your mailbox.

A food pantry volunteer hands 5-year-old Shannon a bag with three cookies as her mother, Amelia, waits her turn for emergency food in the crowded lobby of Hope Pantry. Amelia's husband once built barges and got good promotions, but now he suffers from arthritis so severe he can't use his hands.

"There are days when I'm scared ... when I'm terrified I won't be able to feed my children," Amelia says.

And then, just like every mother, she quickly adds, "My kids are all gifted, talented and beautiful. I want the best for them. Just because I'm at a food pantry doesn't mean I don't have dreams for my kids."

Shannon eats two cookies. "I'm saving this cookie for daddy," she says. Then she traces a picture of the last cookie on a piece of paper and gives the picture to her mother with a big hug and the message, "I love you, mommy."

Too many of our neighbors struggle to put food on the table -- seniors, people who are disabled, children, parents who work more than one low-income job. They need our help.

As you prepare for Mother's Day, we remind you of the chance to make a big difference in the lives of people such as Shannon and Amelia. Our dedicated U.S. Postal Service employees make it so easy for all of us to help. In fact, the opportunity comes right to your mailbox during the annual Stamp out Hunger letter carriers food drive on Saturday, May 11.

Simply place a sturdy bag of nutritious, nonperishable food by your mailbox on the morning of Saturday, May 11. Your letter carrier will pick up the food while delivering your mail. It's that easy.

As part of the community, letter carriers see the need. They know the impact the economy has had on families.

Letter carrier Lois Brumfield has walked a postal route in the Lents area for four years. "I love that my customers watch out for me, and they know I watch out for them, too," she says. "I have seen my neighbors and postal customers struggle through the recession. It gives me great pride to do 'something extra' on letter carriers' food drive day. I know the need is great, and I am truly blessed to have a good job and good health to do my job."

The letter carriers' food drive is the largest one-day food drive not only in Oregon, but in the nation. Such a massive effort is impossible for one organization to do alone. The beauty of this food drive is that it brings the entire community together. In Oregon and southwest Washington, more than 4,000 letter carriers, hundreds of volunteers, the U.S. Postal Service, unions, businesses and postal customers will participate.

Last year, letter carriers collected 1.3 million pounds of food in Oregon and southwest Washington. This year our goal is 1.5 million pounds of food.

The letter carriers' food drive gives everyone the chance to be part of something bigger than anything we could do alone. On Saturday, May 11, as you fill your bag with food and place it by your mailbox, think about Amelia and Shannon. Every can and package of food makes a difference in the life of someone.

Susannah Morgan is the CEO of the Oregon Food Bank. Shawneen Betha is the Portland postmaster.

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