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Postal Workers Also Collect the Goods : Charity: Mail carriers pick up non-perishable food donated by residents as part of an annual drive.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Most mail carriers came back to their post offices Saturday with heavier loads than when they left on their routes.

Postal workers returned with bags and boxes of non-perishable food items left at mailboxes by residents participating in the annual national food drive for the needy sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service and the National Assn. of Letter Carriers.

“I think it’s a rewarding thing, and good to make it so convenient for people,” said letter carrier Chris Guyse of Reseda, who works at the Northridge Post Office.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 17 earthquake, the volume of canned goods and foodstuffs was lower than last year in Northridge. But mail carrier Kurt Whitesell said the collection has a bright future because people trust mail carriers.

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“If they trust us with their checks, they’ll trust us with a few canned goods,” said Whitesell, who is living temporarily in Canyon Country because the quake forced him out of his Northridge home.

Workers sorting bags of food instead of mail late Saturday said that the Northridge office has been involved in volunteer food drives for years. But the current cooperative effort between the letter carriers’ union and the U.S. Postal Service dates from the first drive in December, 1992.

The annual collection date was switched last year to May because officials said that food banks are lowest in supplies as summer approaches and donations dwindle.

Marva Golden, chief shop steward at the Northridge branch who was donating her time Saturday, said Lutheran Social Services and B’nai B’rith will collect the foodstuff from the Northridge and Porter Ranch branches. But across the San Fernando Valley area, a variety of nonprofit agencies, religious and secular, will receive the food for their hunger relief programs.

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Mail carriers who walk their routes had to design a new strategy so they would not be overloaded with donations too far from their trucks.

Kavin Williams felt he had a plan. “I pretty well know who’s going to donate,” said Williams who has been on the same route for seven years.

One resident, whose mail had already been delivered, ran out with a paper bag filled with cans to Williams’ truck. “Kavin, I forgot to put my cans out,” he said.

Ken Thomas, a 21-year-old Cal State Northridge student who lives in an apartment complex, said, “I didn’t remember that this was the day until I saw somebody else’s bag by the mailboxes. It could have been more publicized.”

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Back at the Northridge Post Office, several workers were pawing through large mail bins full of groceries searching for a carrier’s beeper that had fallen in. One carrier lost a receipt from an express-mail delivery while unloading her groceries. Another worker luckily spotted her dog-spray repellent that had fallen out of her jacket as she helped with the bags.

The donated cans and packaged groceries were as varied as any supermarket’s stock, but carrier Peter Butcher held up an item especially familiar to postal workers.

“Hey, what’s this stuff?” he asked. “Didn’t we deliver this?”

To the chuckles of colleagues nearby, Butcher displayed two small cereal boxes, still unopened and held together by clear plastic wrapping. There were, in fact, quite a few of those mailed samples sticking out of bags.

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