A local food drive hauled in more than 85,000 pounds of food for Southern Arizona food banks, surpassing a goal of 50,000.
The annual Bag-A-Thon, which was founded by Edward Jones financial adviser Ken Blanchard, racked up 70,000 pounds of food for the pantry that Interfaith Community Services - a nonprofit with headquarters on Ina Road - runs for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
The drive also distributed about 15,000 pounds of food to food banks in Marana, Sierra Vista, Green Valley, Bisbee and Yuma. The food drive concluded Nov. 3.
"It was certainly a tremendous turnout," ICS spokeswoman Alison Betts said. "It greatly exceeded the goal and the expectations that Ken had set."
Twenty schools pitched in. Ironwood Ridge High School led the way by collecting 9,500 pounds of food, while Copper Creek Elementary School and Oro Valley's Basis Charter School each collected 1,500.
The town of Oro Valley (750) pounds, and a grocery store (Fry's, with 2,000 pounds) also got in on the act, as well as Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls.
"The community really, really came out in force," Blanchard said. "We could not have accomplished this without the support of the community."
Edward Jones locations also contributed significantly. Blanchard said he was impressed with the way offices didn't simply put out donation boxes, but hosted breakfasts, asking for food donations for those who attended.
Widespread volunteer collection efforts took on lives of their own, Blanchard said. Trick-or-treating students went door-to-door, requesting cans of food rather than candy to help out with the drive. One such trick-or-treater even knocked on Blanchard's door, and he and his family cleared out their pantry for the kid.
Blanchard started the Bag-A-Thon in 2006 and marvels at how fast it has grown. The first year, Blanchard set a goal of collecting 1,000 pounds of food, but the event raised 2,000. In its second year, the goal was 4,000 and the haul was 5,000.
This year's collection was 85,292 pounds of food.
"We try very hard to raise the bar every year," Blanchard said.
The donations have helped ICS meet increased holiday season demand, Betts said.
"It certainly helps us," she said, adding the organization is still badly in need of donations of frozen chicken and turkey. "We're just overwhelmed by the response from the community and how giving people were."
HOW TO HELP
Interfaith Community Services will distribute Thanksgiving food bags to people in need through Nov. 30.
It is still looking for donations of frozen turkeys, hams, and chickens to be able to include a protein item with each bag. Cash donations are also accepted and qualify for the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit, according to a news release from ICS.
Last year the nonprofit distributed nearly 2,000 holiday packages.
You can drop off food donations or mail checks to Interfaith Community Services at 2820 W. Ina Road, Tucson, AZ 85741.
Call 297-6049 for more information.
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org