LEE — Alex Consolati lost count the number of trips he made pushing a shopping cart filled with goods to replenish the depleted shelves at the Lee Food Pantry. Located inside the Airoldi Building, Cam Abderhalden, Shenna Tyer and other teenage volunteers sorted the pasta, rice, juices, cookies, canned goods, pet food and other donated goods before restocking the food bank shelves that were virtually bare.
Two-and-half hours later, the pantry shelves were full again.
"It's amazing how many people needs this [food,] but it's great so many people help out," Abderhalden.
The three upperclassmen were among the dozen Lee Middle and High School students working the tail end of the Stuff the Trailer food drive sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Lee on Saturday. The students, all members of the Frank Consolati Jr. Sons of Italy, unloaded a tractor trailer parked outside the local food bank. The floor of the semi, provided by Onyx Specialty Papers in South Lee, was nearly filled with bags and boxes of food stuff donated during the six-hour charitable event.
The Kiwanians also received $1,131, monetary donations that food pantry volunteers will spend on additional nonperishable food items, toiletries and diapers. Each week between 50 to 125 less fortunate Lee-area adults and children rely on the food pantry.
"A lot of people have said, 'Thank you for doing this,'" said Lee Kiwanis President Marcie Gaul.
Kiwanian Bette Flood added, "This is one of the best projects we do,"
The past two weeks has seen those in need almost empty the food pantry shelves, according to Kiwanis officials and food pantry coordinator Sue Gore. Generally, the demand for food increases around Thanksgiving because those in need are seeking to put food on the table while trying to pay the first bills of the heating season.
Open every Saturday for two hours in the Airoldi Building on Railroad Street, the Lee Food Pantry was formed in 1992 by several members of the former St. George's Episcopal Church on Franklin Street.
The non profit entity relies on individual donations of goods to keep the shelves stocked with can, bottled and boxed foods, personal care items and cleaning products.
Since it debuted in 2012, "Stuff the Trailer" has become the food pantry's signature event that townspeople are more than willing to help out.
A week or two before the event, Kiwanis members distribute door-to-door in their neighborhoods small plastic bags with a note attached reminding homeowners it's that time again to restock the pantry shelves.
"Those I talked to loved me for dropping off the bags," said Kiwanian Gerry LePrevost.
This year, thought's of Stuff the Trailer begin for some in September during Lee's three-day community celebration.
"I had people at Founders Day Weekend ask me if we were doing the food drive again because they missed it last year," Flood said.
Those who missed Saturday's food drive can still bring nonperishable food to the Lee branch of Greylock Federal Credit Union on Main Street through the end of November. Monetary donations are also accepted year-round and checks can be mailed to Lee Food Pantry,PO Box 335, Lee, Mass. 01238.