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Tue., Oct. 6
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United Way Jefferson County food drive a success


When Watertown Savings Bank employees accept a challenge, they don’t want to be beat.

And they weren’t on Friday, during the United Way of Northern New York’s annual Jefferson County Food Drive, held in the parking lot of St. Anthony’s Church, at Bellew Avenue and Arsenal Street.

“This is all from employees of Watertown Savings Bank,” said RoAnn J. Dermady, commercial loan officer, as she pointed to several pallets and bags of food. “There are 110 employees and everyone worked on this.”

The bank, which is headquartered at 140 Clinton St., became partners with Price Chopper to purchase the nonperishable food and personal hygiene items. Donations also were received from the grocery chain, Watertown Correctional Officers Union and First Choice Travel.

“One of the things we like to do — our motto is ‘commitment to our customers, commitment to our community’ — that was a perfect way to get our branches on board,” Mrs. Dermady said. “I’d challenge (others) to do it.”

United Way Chief Executive Officer Robert D. Gorman said he knew some friendly competition was brewing between the bank and longtime United Way supporter Northern Federal Credit Union, but he wasn’t aware of the amount of food that would be delivered.

“It’s a great way for a business, for its employees to say, ‘We’re making an impact,’” he said.

By 9:30 a.m. Friday, all 19 tables, one for each food pantry in Jefferson County, were covered in items from dried pasta and boxed macaroni and cheese to sauce, soup, canned vegetables and fruit and more. By noon, tables were overflowing with food, and the space beneath each table was full.

That all was due in part to several businesses and community members who dropped off nonperishable food items. A truck from Hannaford supermarket also delivered thousands of dollars’ worth of food to the collection site. Michael W. Woods, the credit union’s vice president of finance and operations and a United Way board member, said the credit union alone provides upwards of $7,000 worth of food to the Jefferson County food drive. That is made possible with an average of $5,000 in donations and by purchasing the food at a discounted price through Hannaford.

“To me, it isn’t a competition,” he said. “It’s about everyone finding their voice and commitment to be part of the community. If everyone participates, it takes the burden away.”

That burden is on food pantries at this time of year because by summer’s end, many of their shelves are near empty. Often when needy families have children home throughout the summer when school is out, they use their local food pantry to supplement their grocery needs.

The United Way food drive helps restock those shelves.

Mr. Woods suggested families participate year round, and have a box in their pantry so they can save up nonperishable goods for the annual fall event.

Meanwhile, the United Way’s Lewis County Food Drive, benefiting seven pantries in that county, took place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the county fairgrounds in Lowville.

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