Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Kenmore Post Donates 100 Boxes of Produce to Food Pantry
Operation Groundhog Day
KENMORE – When a food pantry started up during the pandemic to help families in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda (Ken-Ton) School District, Milton J. Brounshidle Post 205 in Kenmore reached out to help.
After looking at ways to maximize a donation, legionnaires launched “Operation Groundhog Day” (a reference to the Bill Murray movie that has him repeating the same day). They delivered 50 boxes of fresh produce to Ken-Ton Cares Food Pantry and then repeated the 50-box delivery a week later.
The donation was a hit, Post Commander Ted Balbierz reports. When the food pantry announced the addition of fresh produce, orders tripled, he said, “and they are currently exploring available grants to continue to be able to provide fresh produce” to families in need.
Balbierz also gave something else to Ken-Ton Cares founder Dr. Jill O’Malley, who started the food pantry as an offshoot of her Ken-Ton Closet, which provides clothing to kids in need. That “something else” was an American Legion Centennial Challenge Coin.
“One of the coolest things happened to me today,” Dr. O’Malley wrote on Facebook on May 7. “I got a challenge coin! I have never heard of this before and I am so honored to receive it. I thought I was going to cry (and Lord knows how that would go with a mask??). Anyhow, I am a humble servant that does not need recognition but I am going to cherish this forever. Thank you Commander Balbierz!”
It turns out Post 205 has a history of supporting efforts that help children in the school district. The Post had adopted Ken-Ton Closet “as our primary Children and Youth project,” Balbierz noted, providing financial support, plus last fall purchasing 100 winter coats for children.
When schools were closed by the pandemic, Dr. O’Malley, who is president of the Ken-Ton School Board, “recognized the growing need to ensure local families were receiving proper nutrition,” the Post 205 commander said.
The legionnaires initially offered financial support, and then “explored maximizing our donation by attempting to purchase wholesale dry goods,” he said. “But we ran into a dead end as every contact our legionnaires had in commercial wholesale food purchasing was unable to assist as they were currently not working due to the stay-at-home order.”
That’s when a different solution appeared “right in front of our noses.”
The commander’s daughter, Lauren, a recent Auxiliary member, and her boyfriend, Mike Pope, operate a local produce stand (George’s Produce Market) and regularly purchase wholesale produce.
“We reached out to Dr. O’Malley about the possibility of donating 100 boxes of fresh produce to be included with the non-perishables currently being offered and she accepted. Thus, what we lovingly named ‘Operation Groundhog Day’ was born.”