Mail carriers collect food for hungry

Published 12:02 pm Monday, May 16, 2011

Postal carrier Tory Nelson, working on his day off, carries food away from a home along Burr Oak Drive Saturday morning. The food collected is for the Postal Carriers food drive. -- Eric Johnson/

Mail carriers added pickup to delivery Saturday.

The day was the mail carriers’ 20th annual May food drive in Austin. Each year, the carriers take extra time to pick up non-perishable food items along their route.

“The carriers really look forward to this,” said Connie Kirama, officer in charge at the Austin Post Office.

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The Austin Post Office has counted 11,760 pounds of food so far — not including the smaller towns in Mower County. The postal service surpassed the billion pound mark last year nationally.

The food drive is a friendly competition with Albert Lea mail carriers. Albert Lea has typically come in ahead. Last year, Albert Lea only won by about 50 pounds. Post Office officials said Monday morning that Albert Lea’s totals haven’t come in yet.

Despite the competition, Saturday was the day for mail carriers to give back.

“It’s a good cause. It’s kind of rewarding to pick up the food,” Carrier Mike Stackenwalt said.

He said the carriers work a little faster to pick up the food without billing overtime. Plus they work into lunches and breaks, but the carriers are happy to absorb the time.

“It’s kind of my little way of giving,” Stackenwalt said.

For the first 15 years, the mail carriers picked all the food up themselves.

“The project grew beyond out capability to have it all picked up,” said Troy Nelson, who has helped organize the drive since it started.

Since then, community groups like the Jaycees, the National Honor Society and many other groups volunteer to pick up more than half of the food items.

“It’s really turned into a community-wide project,” he said.

“That’s been a big help,” he added.

Nelson has helped organize the food drive since it started 20 years ago.

All the food brought in goes to the Salvation Army. Some area small towns also collected food, but the food raised stayed in the small towns.