Getting the goods

Published 8:13 pm Saturday, October 18, 2008

For a while, it looked as if all of the time spent standing around in the blustery Suffolk Farm Fresh parking lot on Saturday wouldn’t really make much of a difference.

Two huge boxes resting on pallets both were still less than half full, with only an hour or two remaining in the annual food drive, and members of Girl Scout Troop 946 were trying to flag down shoppers for donations — with limited success.

For every car that pulled up with a bag or two of canned goods, several drove off without slowing.

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Donations were “a little lower than usual,” Karen Joyner acknowledged, noting that the struggling economy has been especially hard on The Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia and its affiliated organizations.

Joyner is chief financial officer for the Food Bank and was on hand in Suffolk Saturday to monitor the collection event, which she called “one of our biggest food drives of the year.”

Even as she wondered about the success of Saturday’s Girl Scouts’ collections Saturday in about a dozen Farm Fresh parking lots across Hampton Roads, Joyner tried to maintain a positive outlook.

“Our warehouse is pretty bare right now, so this is a big boost,” she said.

Troop 946 had about seven girls working on the project to help out the Food Bank and earn experience towards their community service patches and other awards.

The Scouts had distributed several hundred collection bags a week ago in the neighborhoods around their home base, Bethlehem Christian Church on Route 58. On Saturday morning, they picked up those bags that had been filled, delivering the food to the waiting boxes.

Other troops from across the city were doing the same thing, and the Main Street Farm Fresh was the central donation point, where a Food Bank truck awaited the drive’s completion.

With just a little more than an hour remaining in the event, Mary Tromba, troop leader for the North Suffolk Service Unit’s Troop 911, pointed out two vans pulling into the parking lot.

“Those are ours,” she called out to the eight or nine girls from her troop waiting in the lot.

Carts were rolled over to the vans, at least one of which was packed to the ceiling with cans and boxes of food items. Girls from both troops were quick to pitch in, and the half-empty collection boxes were quickly filled to their brims.

“This is our first community service project this year,” Tromba said, noting that most of the projects her girls undertake involve military aid or support, since most have one or both parents in the military.

In fact, Junior and Cadette troop members earned their Bronze Awards last year by making more than 100 pillows and delivering them, with more than 100 boxes of cookies, to soldiers at Camp Lejeune. Tromba said the entire troop went on the trip to North Carolina — staying on base, visiting wounded warriors and participating in a walk-a-thon while there.

Saturday’s work, though, was a little closer to home for Troop 911 and the other troops that participated. And it will benefit people in the area who have a dire need, the Food Bank’s Joyner said.

Food donations this year have been “down significantly,” she said, adding that the number of people served has grown over last year, which was already 23 percent higher than the previous one.

“This is really important to us,” she said.