Major Food Drive Underway For County’s Leading Soup Kitchen

JAMESTOWN – When the local community sees a critical need, people respond as best they can.

Keith Martin, executive director of the Northwest Arena, saw a need and, with help from the community, has stepped up in a big way.

Martin, and others, have for six years collected food, supplies and monetary gifts to help St. Susan’s Center to offer food and love to those in need.

“For the last six years now we’ve started this Community Holiday Haul for St. Susan’s,” Martin told WNYNewsNow. “We look to collect nonperishable food items and supplies for St. Susan’s and monetary donations. Last year alone we collected over 4 1/2 tons of food and supplies and $14,000. Hopefully this year we can surpass both those amounts.”

Those wishing to donate can drop off food items, supplies or money in the Jamestown Cycle Shop parking lot until 6 p.m. Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“Affectionately, on Saturday afternoon, we call it the train because that’s what it is, just car after car after car,” Martin said. “It’s so very special to be a part of how the community comes out and supports our mission and St. Susan’s and help the needy during this holiday time.”

Martin said the community is blessed to have so many people help so many organizations.

“In our community, Chautauqua County, there’s so many wonderful people who do give to many organizations,” he said. “When you serve 120,000 meals a year there, there is a need there.”

“Hopefully we’ll take the full truck over to St. Susan’s (Saturday) and unload it, so people can just drive into the Jamestown Cycle Shop’s parking lot,  open up their trucks, open up their windows,” Martin said.

He thanks Jamestown Mattress for the donation of a truck, Jamestown Cycle Shop for the use of the parking lot, Jamestown Awnings for a tent, Northwest Arena, Cummins Engine for displaying food donation boxes at their plant and Media One for helping to get the word out.

But he also had a special thanks he offered.

“First and foremost are the thousands of people who come over and donate,” he said.

Dan Keef, a Falconer basketball coach, said he got involved as a team project for his players.

“We try every year to out collect every school that tries, as just a team, every school that tries  to collect food and we’ve been fairly succesful,” Keef said. ” I’ve been blessed with girls that buy into it and parents to buy into that as well.”

Keef said last year Cummins Engine collected about a half-ton of food. Employed there, Keef said he tells coworkers that if every one of the 1,600 employees donated even just one can of food, that’s 1,600 cans.

“It is a total community effort,” Keef explained. “There really is a need there seems. They served almost 120,000 meals this year. Those who are more fortunate seem always willing too help. If everybody in the community donates one can that’s about 10 tons of food.”

WNYNewsNow’s Justin Gould and Rory Pollaro contributed to this report.