Casino, United Way, food bank team up for food drive

Posted Jan. 04, 2012, at 2:47 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — In the weeks before Christmas, local food pantries and charities sometimes get more donations than they can keep up with.

But with the dawn of a new year and of the frigid portion of winter in Maine, that flood of food and money turns into a trickle.

Since 2010, United Way of Eastern Maine, Hollywood Slots, and Good Shepherd Food-Bank have teamed up for the annual Pantry Project, a monthlong food drive that has gone from an initial final tally of 5,500 pounds of food the first year to a goal of 12,000 pounds this year.

“During the holidays, from Thanksgiving through Christmas, we get a lot of donations, but in January, it’s like a door closes,” said John Kuropchak, president of the United Way of Eastern Maine. “By the end of this month, our cupboards get pretty bare and continue that way through April until the letter carriers do their food drive in May.”

That’s where Hollywood Slots — now known officially as Hollywood Casino — comes in.

John Osborne, Hollywood Casino general manager and vice president of operations, said the annual drive, which involved 23 Maine companies and raised a total of 8,350 pounds of food last year, fits in perfectly with his company’s desire to be an active member of the business community.

“It’s actually from employees that we get most of our donations,” said Osborne, who encouraged casino patrons to bring in donations as well. “We have a jeans day on Wednesday, which is a casual day this January. So if employees bring in canned goods or money, they can wear jeans on that day.”

Osborne said Hollywood Casino’s goal is simply to outdo last year’s 2,500-pound total.

For the second straight year, local artist Allison Melton used canned goods to create a seasonal “sculpture.”

Last year, Melton used green tuna fish cans to make a Christmas tree. This year, she used the white label side of tomato soup, chicken noodle soup and canned corn cans weighing a combined 2,000 pounds to create a snowman nicknamed “Soupy.”

“This snowman may be the only snowman in town right now,” joked Melissa Huston, development associate for Good Shepherd Food-Bank.

Huston said Good Shepherd is accepting monetary donations as well this year, noting that a $10 donation translates into $80 worth of food.

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