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Hooksett Boy Scouts created their traditional food pyramid at this year’s Scouting for Food event (minus the Spam this year). From left are Dylan Durazanno, Josh Burbee and Zach Hooker. (Ruth Mariano Photo)

Pitching in -- Boy, Girl Scouts help out as food donations suffer

Superstorm Sandy blew into New Hampshire Oct. 29, but only after she had already ravaged much of the Eastern seaboard. New York and New Jersey were devastated, fires burned, homes were destroyed and lives were lost.

New Hampshire pulled together, sending people and provisions to the areas overwhelmed by this horrific storm.

“People were giving left and right,” said Art Burns of Hooksett.

Perhaps this is why the Nov. 10 pickup date was particularly bad timing for Hooksett’s annual Scouting for Food efforts. Numbers were down for this year’s donations, said Burns, the Scouting for Food organizer for Hooksett, but so many people were already giving elsewhere, trying to help where they could.

A total of 4,354 items were collected this year, “down about a thousand from last year,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff they got that was out of date this year,” he said. About 1,000 items had to be thrown out as they had already expired.

Although the totals of this year’s drive were disappointing, the efforts of those involved were inspiring. Unlike most communities who do Scouting for Food, Hooksett gets eager participation from Cub Scouts as well as Girl Scouts.

“Led by the Boy Scouts in Hooksett,” said Burns, “the Boy Scouts carry the lion’s share” of the home pickup work, covering about 50 percent of the homes on the selected routes, with Cub Scouts getting another 30 percent, and the Girl Scouts picking up about 20 percent. The Girl Scouts, however, worked long and hard at the food pantry this year, as they do every year, sorting the food and helping the Food Pantry staff.

The Girl Scouts “were among the first groups in and were still working there when everything shut down at 1,” said Burns.

Also inspiring were the thanks received from the community this year. Two notes were left with bagged donations on the Scouts’ routes, the first of which read:

“Hello Scouts. You are doing a very good thing here. We are very proud of you. Keep up the good work. Always remember this as you get older, that by doing things together, you can do great things, and there is nothing greater than helping someone in need. Follow a good path and don’t be afraid to start your own.”

And the other, with a box of chocolates, read:

“Thank you for teaching young people to care about others. A gift for you.”

All of the Scouting for Food efforts would be for naught, however, if not for the dogged determination of Barb Brennan, chairman of the Hooksett Community Food Pantry. While the Scouting donations were down this year, the need for donations has increased yet again.

“We set a record this past month for how many people we gave food to,” said Brennan.

What some people may not understand is that the Hooksett Food Pantry does not receive any food from the New Hampshire Food Bank.

“If people donate to the Hooksett Food Pantry,” said Brennan, “it will benefit Hooksett families in need,” and only Hooksett families.

The New Hampshire Food Bank is a statewide organization that is run quite differently than the Hooksett Food Pantry.

“We don’t charge money as they do at the New Hampshire Food Bank,” said Brennan. “We rely on donations from the community.”

The Hooksett Food Pantry, sponsored by the Hooksett Kiwanis Foundation, takes great pride in working specifically with the Hooksett community for the benefit of the Hooksett community.

Now, during this particularly busy time of year, the community pitches in.

“There are so many businesses and families that do food drives for us,” said Brennan.

McDonald’s and Portland Glass were among the businesses that support the pantry. Merchant’s Auto left Brennan nearly speechless with its support.

“It was incredible – it was so huge, it was amazing,” she said. Even the ice arena is collecting, she said. “It’s on their marquee.”

Brennan says there are collection bins all around town, as well, in Shaw’s, Hannaford, Market Basket, the Hooksett Town Library, Profile Storage, and even the Town Hall.

If you’d like to make a donation directly, she welcomes you to come by during the following hours: Mondays and Fridays 10 a.m. to noon; Wedsnesdays 9 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m.; and Tuesdays and Thursdays 2 to 4:30 p.m. Their phone is 485-7222 – leave a message on the machine if you get it.

If you need assistance, call to schedule an appointment. It’s all about people helping people.

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Saturday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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Saturday, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.

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