Milford Scouts help feed the hungry for holidays

Scout Leader Zach Santarcangelo with Scouts who participated in the project.

Contributed photo

Milford Scouts numbering in the hundreds joined forces in an effort to help feed local families during the 13th annual weekend long “Thanks for Giving Food Drive.”

Scouts braved the cold and camped out in tents on Daniel S. Wasson Field, as extra-large boxes were filled to the brim thanks to the generosity of the community. Scouts accepted and sorted thousands of nonperishable donations along with frozen turkeys delivered to numerous dropoff sites throughout town before delivering the items to local organizations in need.

Donation tables were staffed by Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venturer Scouts, and family members at Stop & Shop, ShopRite and Adams supermarkets.

“We have about 70 volunteers working right here at this site on Wasson Field. Food comes to us from neighborhoods where we have collected food, supermarkets where we have collected food, the schools, people dropping it off to our collections sites – Scouts meet the people, we check expiration dates and sort the food and pack it beneath this 80 feet of tent,” explained District Food Drive Chair Tom Mercaldo.

“We feed 305 families and with each box we put together, we try to do something special with the family in mind – custom suited to the size, ages of family members and demographics of the family. Our goal is to give them what they’re going to need and use. The event has grown bigger every year. We have five field sites where Scouts are collecting food.”

“In addition to feeding 305 families we have a triage list of charities that we support - most years we have six to eight charities we support, we try to support as many as we can,” continued Mercaldo.

According to the Scout Law, “A Scout’s duty is to be useful and to help others” and he/she “must do a good turn to somebody every day. A Scout is a friend to all.”

“We are trying to teach kids service to the community and giving back, which obviously we are doing here. We try to also teach them leadership, the kids pack the boxes and have important jobs, we have a quality control process, the adults then check the boxes to be sure they’re correct,” Mercaldo said.

“I think this is Important to the town because it provides meals to about 300 families and to food pantry’s across town, it’s only a weekend and it makes a big impact and helps people in need ,” said Assistant Senior Patrol Leader James Rodrigues. “People don’t really understand there are a lot of people in need.”

Throughout the last 12 years, the drive collected $21,000 in cash donations, more than 85,000 pounds of food and more than 3,300 turkeys helping feed local families during the holidays. The Scouts this year had been asked to support additional charities as well including Beth El Shelter, Milford Food Bank, Cornerstone Food Pantry and the John Wrigley Food Pantry. “We also support the First United Church of Christ Food Pantry, Saint Gabriels Food Bank, the Food 2 Kids Program which provides single serving type meals to young people in the school system for weekend meals and the Ronald McDonald House in New Haven.”

“We really appreciate the generosity of the people in Milford,” said Mercaldo. “This food drive is absolutely an amazing testament to people and the generosity of people. People drive to the field and they give us money which we use to buy gift cards to supermarkets for families for Christmas so they have Christmas meals too. The tremendous generosity of people is overwhelming to us as Scouts and we love to see it, nobody walks away from this event without being uplifted seeing the generosity of all the people in our community, the number of people volunteering and the number of people coming together. When you make the delivery’s as I have for several years, you realize what the need is. This is a great opportunity for us to help those people.”

The event culminated with approximately 347 turkeys, $3,300 in cash donations, nine truckloads of food and more than 300 volunteers who supported the annual event. A total of 305 Milford families received Thanksgiving baskets from the Scouts and cash donations will provide Christmas gift cards to families during the December holiday season.