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Nicole Kato

Thinking Inside The Box

Postal Service mail carriers, taking a break from promoting new large flat-rate boxes, are hoping you’ll contribute to the nation’s largest one-day food drive this Saturday by placing canned goods in the blue plastic bags they’ll leave. And all of the food stays in Hawaii to feed the thousands of hungry among us

They are our postal workers – those who bring us graduation announcements, letters from family, birthday invitations, magazines and, yes, even bills. They have been called messengers of sympathy and love, servants of parted friends, consolers of the lonely, and carriers of news and knowledge.

But May 10 they will be facilitators of the community and bearers of food for the hungry.

For 22 years, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) has made a move to “stamp out hunger,” and as part of NALC, our Hawaii State Association of Letter Carriers aims to far exceed last year’s collection of 485,000 pounds of food for our communities.

Locally, Stamp Out Hunger takes place this coming Saturday (May 10), but it kicked off with a rally last Saturday at Honolulu’s Downtown Post Office.

The focus of the kickoff event was on home-based business owners, entrepreneurs and multi-level marketing companies who all utilize USPS mailing services and flat-rate boxes. (Large flat-rate boxes feature a newly designed “Aloha from Hawaii” slogan.)

Business owners and multi-level marketers assembled on the post office grounds to build momentum for the Stamp Out Hunger food drive by building a multi-level tower of food donations, which set the tone for the drive itself and showcased examples of types of food items targeted for collection.

NALC’s Stamp Out Hunger drive is always on the second Saturday in May, and it’s the nation’s largest one-day food drive.

Here at home, Stamp Out Hunger benefits Hawaii Food-bank Oahu, The Food Basket, Maui Food Bank and Hawaii Foodbank Kauai Branch.

“One out of every five kids is going hungry every night,” notes Greg Wolny, district manager for USPS Honolulu District. “This is one time a year we can do the best that we can to get as much food as we can to food pantries.

“They can take care of these families – and that means a lot to me, and it means a lot to everyone at the postal service.”

Heading up this year’s event are 2014 NALC state coordinator Adele Yoshikawa (Pearl City letter carrier) and 2014 NALC co-chair Steven Croll (Makiki letter carrier).

Croll, who has been with the post office eight years this month, is a relative newcomer to Stamp Out Hunger’s leadership team.

He shadowed his predecessor three years ago, and says he learned a lot in the process.

“It makes me feel a lot better about giving even more,” he says. “It helps the community so much, so you forget about all the things you might have to give up or the extra work you have to put in. It’s just such a good thing for us.”

For Yoshikawa, who has been with the postal service for 15 years, this is her 10th year participating as a coordinator, and she says the process has touched her heart.

“We do a lot of things on our own time,” she admits. “We do things off the clock – whatever it takes.”

Yoshikawa handles media contacts and relationships, while Croll focuses on logistics.

“We do this together as a team, and the support of Greg allows us to do all of this,” she says. “It’s a collaboration, a joint effort. Our teamwork is amazing, and that’s why we’ve been so successful.”

Wolny described his main role as that of support and encouragement.

“It’s my job to support them,” he explains. “They’ve been doing it for 20-plus years, and they do a fantastic job – whatever I can do to support them.”

His support comes in the form of sending messages and emails, and making sure carriers have enough vehicles and staffing, among other duties.

Yoshikawa is more than thankful for Wolny’s efforts.

“Greg supports the cause 110 percent,” she says. “If we need time off to prepare for the event, if we need him to do a visual appearance, he’s there.”

Iconic blue bags have been delivered to residential addresses along with their mail, and residents have the opportunity to fill the bags with food, which then will be picked up Saturday by mail carriers.

All mail carriers participate, and even rural carriers (who aren’t part of NALC) pick up food for the drive.

“It actually has a stamp on it,” says Yoshikawa of the bags.

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