CONWAY — Conway police will hold their seventh annual Christmas Food Drive on Saturday.
The department is asking for the public to help once again “Cram the Cruiser,” from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the North Conway Hannaford at 32 Mountain Valley Blvd.
The food drive supports Vaughan Community Services and Conway Village Congregational (the Brown Church) food pantries, and it is the police department’s goal to fill their shelves in time for the holidays.
Dispatch supervisor and food drive organizer Joanne MacKenzie said last year's Cram the Cruiser was the most successful to date, but they hope to outdo it.
“It was amazing,” she said, Tuesday. “The day started out with Hannaford employees wheeling out 120 Helping Hands boxes of food (that had been gathered in the days leading up to the drive, valued at $2,000).
"We got a ton of community support. People were dropping off items left and right, plus, we received $1,700 in donations. We took that money and Police Department employees took turns going inside and purchasing non-perishable food items, toiletries and paper goods to add to the collection of donated items. We ended up with over $1,000 worth of bagged groceries donated by Hannaford customers doing their weekend shopping.”
MacKenzie came up with the idea for Cram the Cruiser in 2013 while she was at a dispatch conference.
“This time of year can be particularly hard on struggling families with the added costs of heating fuel and other family demands," she said. "I approached the chief (Ed Wagner) with my idea, and he was all for it.”
MacKenzie said the need seems even greater this year. The Brown Church’s food pantry, which serves Conway, Eaton, Albany and Chatham, provides monthly meals to 40-50 households, serving over 8,000 meals a month. It is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
“I was told they are seeing an uptick in elderly, homeless and people under 18 (years of age) coming to the pantry,” MacKenzie said. “Jennifer (Perkins, Vaughan Community Services administrator) said they’re also seeing more elderly in need. They are serving, on average, 115 families a month.”
The Vaughan Food Pantry is located at 2076 White Mountain Highway in North Conway. Its hours of operation are Mondays from 10-11:15 a.m., Wednesdays from 9-10:15 a.m. and Thursdays from 1:30-2:45 p.m.
MacKenzie said they will accept all donations of any non-perishable food items such as canned goods, cereals, pastas, sauces, granola bars, breakfast bars, crackers, canned meats and tuna, as well as household goods like paper products, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps and even pet food.
If you cannot make it to the food drive, the police department has placed a box in the lobby at the station for donations. The department is located at 35 East Conway Road, Center Conway.
“We’re hoping this year’s drive will top last year,” MacKenzie said. “We want to encourage everyone to stop by the Command Unit on Saturday at Hannaford to say hello and help support the local food pantries.”
She added: “Chief Wagner and Lt. (Chris) Mattei will be there once again. We all have fun doing it — it’s nice to have a positive few hours of interaction with the public. I wish we could do it more often. It’s great to see how much the community cares for each other.”