Food drive competition hosted by Meceola Central Dispatch gives to local pantries

BIG RAPIDS — Two area pantries will be stocked a little more fully thanks to the annual Pack the Pantries competition.

Pack the Pantries is a food drive in which area law enforcement agencies, fire departments and Meceola Central Dispatch compete to bring in the most items to help families in need. The department that collects the most food is awarded a special plaque and also earns bragging rights.

This year, Meceola Central Dispatch collected 587 items to win back the plaque from the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, which won last year’s competition. Coming in second place this year was the Evart Police Department with 410 items. Ferris State DPS, Big Rapids DPS and the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office also participated.

A total of 1,082 canned and non-perishable food items were collected this year, nearly doubling last year’s haul of 677 items.

“It went very well,” said Carolyn Marr, dispatcher. “We had more departments involved this year than last year. Hopefully we will eventually get everyone involved.”

The items collected were divided equally between St. Andrew’s Parish Manna Pantry in Big Rapids and Church of the First Born in Reed City.

“When I sorted the piles I was very impressed,” Marr said. “When I divided it, I could see that each pile was nearly as much as we had raised last year and split. Now we will help twice as many people. I know both pantries are very thankful.”

This time of year is a very special and important time of the year to donate to food pantries, Marr said.

“With the holidays it can be rough when a family can’t afford presents or necessities for their kids, like gloves, boots and coats, so being able to offer a little help on the food end can go a long way,” Marr said. “It’s hard being in that position and asking for help. We want to make sure when they do reach out for assistance, it’s there and available to them.”