In the course of her work in Pittsfield, Amy Breault regularly encounters people asking her to borrow a dollar.
"I see people going through garbage," said Breault, a postal worker. "Delivering mail, I see a lot of need for a lot of assistance. I definitely see a lot more than I ever want to see."
Each year, she leads a coordinated effort to help people in those desperate situations through the annual food drive for the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 286.
The national food drive, now in its 26th year, will be held Saturday. Letter carriers and a host of volunteers will drive around Berkshire County that day, collecting donations of nonperishable food people leave in or near their mailboxes.
"It's all local," Breault said. "If you donate to your carrier in Lee, then the food goes to Lee."
A lack of consistent access to food affects thousands of people across the state.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, assists one in every nine Massachusetts residents, according to a January 2017 report from the state Department of Transitional Assistance. In June 2017, 8,528 people in Pittsfield were receiving SNAP, along with 3,191 in North Adams and 475 in Great Barrington, according to a state report.
"This once-a-year-drive, I think, brings the county's awareness to this issue," said Bryan House, deputy director of the Central and South County operations for Berkshire Community Action Council.
Volunteers for Saturday's food drive start collecting donations about 9 a.m., bringing them to the Pittsfield post office on Fenn Street.
Student volunteers and members of Berkshire Community Action Council and Berkshire United Way help out during the whirlwind day, when all the donations are collected, weighed, boxed and loaded up.
Any nonperishable food is accepted — Breault's mother donates high-end chocolate chips every year.
"She says everybody should have a good chocolate-chip cookie," Breault said.
Food pantries come to collect the food from the post office. Other organizations like the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which provides services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and local churches also receive donations.
"A lot of the carriers — their families help, too," Breault said. "It's a community effort, really."
Breault's husband and his brother will be collecting donations on Saturday.
"It's just an amazing thing," she said. "I get goosebumps even talking about it."
Breault recalled last year's donation drive, when one pantry got so much food that they couldn't physically take anymore.
"It's so exciting to see all the trucks pull up with all the food," she said. "I love getting the numbers."
Results are tracked by the weight of food collected.
Last year, Breault's office collected 32,156 pounds of food. Countywide, it was about 60,000 pounds.
Volunteers — about 40 to 50 in total — and postal workers combine forces to get all the food processed, boxed and loaded up in one day.
"You come back, and you're so exhausted, but it feels so good," Breault said. "It's a really great tired, because you know that you made a difference."
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at email@example.com, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.