Donations measured in pounds at 20th annual food drive at Norwich Big Y

CAFCA | November 01, 2018 |

 A box truck from Rogers Kitchens in Norwich parked at the 20th annual two-day food drive, and the tally in pounds donated for the morning hours doubled once they finished unloading.

Rogers Kitchens delivered the fixings for about 25 Thanksgiving dinners — 720 pounds of frozen turkeys, canned vegetables, potatoes, yams and plenty of pumpkin pie filling and pie crusts — in the Norwich business’s 15th year of participating in the drive. Owner Jim Smith and his daughter, Courtney Smith, the business office manager, said the company is challenging businesses throughout the region to match its totals, or at least donate as much as they can to the annual food drive, which stocks the Gemma E. Moran/United Way Labor Food Bank.

Jim Smith said the company’s donations have escalated over the years, and now they maintain the goal of providing 25 holiday meals, adding to the number and variety of side dishes and desserts each year. The ingredients for pumpkin pies were added recently.

The Thames Valley Council for Community Action has teamed up with WCTY-97.7 FM for the past 20 years to run the two-day drive in the parking lot of Big Y Supermarket to benefit the food center in New London. The food center distributes to more than 80 food pantries throughout the region year-round.

Store security will be on hand at the donation truck to accept donations after the store closes Friday night.

By 11 a.m. Thursday, the drive had collected 1,760 pounds of food, each bag or case of cans weighed on a scale before being loaded into the Big Y tractor trailer that will drive the food to the New London food center Friday evening. Frozen turkeys are carted into the store’s freezer for temporary storage.

TVCCA, which collected 8,000 pounds of food last year, has set a goal of 10,000 this year, Executive Director Deborah Monahan said.

“The food helps people,” she said. “It’s part of the whole package of assistance. When someone comes in, we give them a bag of food, fuel assistance. They’re working but they’re low income. It’s a wrap-around service.”

Charlie Jaskiewicz, former Norwich alderman and school board chairman as well as a perennial donor, unloaded cases of canned vegetables, cranberry sauce and other donations onto the front table, paused for a photo with radio personalities and disappeared quickly to pick up two turkeys to add to the donation.

Cheryl Malinowski of Franklin, another perennial donor, didn’t realize the drive was this week but added two bags of pasta, canned soup, peanut butter and jelly to her shopping trip and stopped at the booth.

“I saw the booth and I had to donate,” she said.

Many businesses, whether in response to Rogers Kitchens’ challenge or on their own, also have participated annually in the drive. CorePlus Credit Union dropped off 330 pounds of food Thursday morning. Dime Bank, Sysco Corp. food services and Norwich Public Utilities are expected to bring in large donations, said Megan Brown, senior director of marketing and development at TVCCA. Brown ran the weigh scale Thursday.

The New London Harley Owners’ Group (HOG) is expected to make its annual large donation, as well.

For smaller businesses or groups that can’t bring the donations to the drive, WCTY-FM will make a collection route to pick up the food collected, radio personality and program director Dave Elder said. The route already includes collections underway at about 25 local businesses. The businesses are listed on the station’s website,