by lisa perkins
---- — TRAVERSE CITY —— The Father Fred Foundation and 100 volunteers have teamed up with 13 neighborhood groceries to help fill the shelves of the Father Fred pantry during the second annual Father Fred Fall Food Drive.
Volunteers, including Troy Tharp and Jed Bowman, of Team Home Depot, began collecting food donations in area Spartan Stores on Sunday. The food drive continues this week from 5 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
"We will have someone from our team on hand all week to help out with this great community cause," said Tharp, a first time volunteer for the Father Fred Fall Food Drive.
Participating collection sites include Tom's 14th Street, Tom's West Bay, Tom's East Bay, Tom's Acme, Tom's Northport, Oleson's Front Street, Oleson's Hammond Road, Glen's Eighth Street, Glen's Chum's Corner and Maxbauer's on Union Street.
Volunteers from Benzie County will be on hand at Glen's in Frankfort and Shop and Save in Benzonia to benefit the food pantry at Benzie Area Christian Neighbors, Benzie Food Partners and Fresh Wind Pantry.
"A big boost to last year's drive was Mike Krueger and the youth groups at St. Francis and St. Joseph parishes," said David Abeel, director of development for the Father Fred Foundation.
"Last year they passed out over 1,200 grocery bags after church and asked parishioners to bring back a bag of food the next Sunday," said Abeel, noting that more than 900 bags were collected.
This year, Eagle Scout candidate Alex Schmitz is working to expand the bag drive to include all five Catholic parishes in the area.
"I have distributed grocery bags to people as they leave Mass and will return next weekend to collect them," said Schmitz, a senior at St. Francis High School, who has visited four parishes and provided collection information at another.
"I have given out at least 2,000 bags for my Stuff the Bus drive that benefits both the Father Fred Foundation and the St. Vincent de Paul Society," Schmitz said.
For those who are too busy to shop, a virtual Father Fred Fall Food Drive is available online at www.FatherFred.org, through Oct. 17, where monetary donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar through pledges from The Oleson Foundation and others.