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Wings & Wheels event will benefit Rochester food pantry


ROCHESTER — Everyone is hoping for clear skies this weekend, which will help prevent bare shelves at the local food pantry.

The second annual Wings & Wheels event is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Skyhaven Airport along Route 108.

The family-friendly event will benefit Gerry's Emergency Food Pantry, which helps Rochester residents in need.

The event, sponsored by police, features a three-way show — featuring planes, vehicles and motorcycles — which should serve as a significant draw for area residents, according to Torey Kortz, executive director of the SHARE Fund.

“This year's Wings & Wheels event is expected to be even bigger and better than last year,” Kortz said in an e-mail.

Kortz said participants can also take airplane and helicopter rides, try their luck with raffles and contests — including one involving hot wings — see police dog demonstrations, soak Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean in a dunk tank, spring around a bounce house while listening to a live band and enjoy a variety of food from local vendors.

Everyone can learn more about safety by stopping by the police Rollover Convincer, a crime scene van, the fire department’s smoke house and medical helicopter tours, according to Kortz.

Registration fees and donations will be collected at the airport’s entrance, according to Kortz.

With more activities than a year ago, Anne Ackerman, co-coordinator of Gerry’s Emergency Food Pantry, feels optimistic about the weekend.

“They’re doing it a little differently,” Ackerman said, adding organizers are asking area residents to provide gift cards or cash donations rather than non-perishable items.

“It’s hard to know what the pantry needs,” Ackerman said, adding sometimes they get a significant amount of corn, beans or another item, but lack the variety needed to keep shelves stocked.

Nonetheless, Ackerman said canned goods or other dry items will still be collected at the event.

“We’re doing quite well,” Ackerman said, adding the annual Post Office drive filled the shelves last month.

Ackerman said the pantry relies on the generosity of area residents and businesses as 150 to 250 local families receive assistance each month.

“It’s about the same number, but we keep seeing new people,” Ackerman said, adding she attributes the fluctuation to the fact that people continue to struggle in the sluggish economy.

Ackerman said the pantry is coordinating with members of The Journey Church to put on another food drive during the annual Night Before the 4th celebration next month.

She added the church plans to open its own pantry, which will supplement Gerry’s in the city.

jquinn@newstote.com

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