By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — A group of Albion students are preparing an overwhelming measure of holiday assistance to meet the incredible need felt across Orleans County.
Members of the Albion FFA chapter have organized for the third year a food and toy drive to benefit Community Action of Orleans County.
This year local farms, businesses and agricultural organizations are set to far surpass the chapter’s goal of donating more than 10,000 pounds of food. By quite a bit. The chapter is set to deliver several tons of apples, eggs and vegetables donated by local farms next Saturday, along with hams purchased by the Orleans County Farm Bureau and citrus fruits from the chapter’s annual fundraiser.
“It’s overwhelming at times,” Elizabeth Bentley, a freshman and the chapter’s parliamentarian said.
Community Action Community Services Director Annette Finch recalls the December morning two years ago, when the FFA’s first food drive delivered 3,500 pounds of food. They brought another 8,000 pounds last year and are expected to quadruple their first year’s haul next week.
“I had no idea what to expect, the pickup trucks kept coming in,” Finch said. “It brought me to tears.”
“I remember the look on their faces, the surprise,” said Albion FFA President Jenny McKenna, who along with Vice President Alison O’Hearn has spearheaded this year’s effort.
The seniors found that local farms have been especially generous during a year when the fields yielded less. FFA Advisor Adam Krenning said he wasn’t confident in getting enough apples, but a large number have.
“The farmers know that the community needs this,” McKenna said.
Students at Albion are also showing their compassion. A toy drive kicked off this week to join with business and churches in helping out. The heavy lifting — literally — will come next Friday, when the students in Krenning’s classes and the FFA members begin to pack up their record donations. More produce will be delivered early Saturday, showing both the depth of support and the depth of need, before being brought to Community Action headquarters.
“I didn’t realize how many people we were helping until we carried the bags out,” O’Hearn said.
Community Action Case Manager Andrea Skowneski has been in contact with area food pantries, churches and community agencies to ensure that the bounty makes its way to as many people as possible. Skowneski said that a great need has already been expressed in Albion and surrounding communities — more than 275 families in Albion, another 175 in Holley and several dozen in Kendall and Lyndonville.
“We’re making sure they can all take what they need,” Skowneski said.
Each family that receives Community Action’s assistance receives a full Christmas meal and every child gets a toy. Fruit baskets are also being delivered to the homebound. Community Action will begin to deliver toys and meals on Dec. 17, but applications for help are being accepted until the agency’s employees head home for their Christmas celebrations on the 25th.
Finch said there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in coming weeks, from packing toys to delivering meals. To volunteer or to request assistance, contact Community Action at 589-5605.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.