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More good news for Food Drive Fridays with mall, Dick’s SG and Big Lots reopening, and another local company comes through

Rick Solem

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A hugely successful food drive — thanks to charity groups, businesses and the La Crosse community — might just get a little shot in the arm Friday.

For five weeks, Food Drive Fridays has seen the community step up to help restock the area’s only food shelf, which serves nearly 100 pantries, meal sites and youth programs, all of which are struggling to keep food available.

This week, the drive coincides directly with the Valley View Mall reopening at 11 a.m.

“I’m hoping that what we’re doing is all going to be able to stay the same the last two weeks here,” Hunger Task Force of La Crosse executive director Shelly Fortner said. “I don’t see a lot of problems — it’s a two-hour food drive. So hopefully we won’t be in anybody’s way and hopefully we’ll still have a successful drive.”

In fact, with the mall reopening — the same time the food drive starts — as well as Dick’s Sporting Goods already being open on that side of town, and Big Lots reopened on the south side, Fortner sees that as good news for the drive.

“Absolutely, I’m hoping they’ll come over and check out what they’re doing,” Fortner said. “Obviously, they hadn’t planned to bring canned goods. That’s fine. We’ll take financial donations and turn them into canned goods. Or, maybe they’ll go home, grab a bag and come on back.

So far, Fortner said the drive has seen 55,447 pounds of goods and possibly well over $186,530.44 donated. But, her numbers might be off a couple tens of thousands of dollars since talking to WIZM, thanks to some other news.

On top of the 6,658 pounds of food and $5,913 donated on site ($13,249 total), during the drive last week, River States Truck and Trailer came through like many others have during this run.

The company — located just past the La Crosse DMV — held a chicken que after last week’s drive, and announced Tuesday evening it had raised a ridiculous $9,500 from 500 dinners in around two and a half hours.

River States then tripled that money. First, the company matched the funds, doubling the donation to $19,000. Then that total was doubled, thanks to Firefighters Credit Union of La Crosse, which is matching all donations up to $50,000.

Also, that ends up being $76 a chicken dinner.

We can't THANK YOU enough for the generosity and support we received last week at our Drive-Thru Chicken Que. We served…

Posted by River States Truck and Trailer on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

So, Fortner’s monetary totals might be off by about $39,000 or so. And that might mean Firefighters Union is about $5,000 from hitting that $50,000 mark with two weeks left.

The end goal here is to pack the Hunger Task Force, so pantries and other groups around the area can keep coming back to the food shelf through the fall, possibly winter. The food shelf is the only one from Madison to Rochester, Minn.

Along with the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse, the drive is being helped by the La Crosse County Health Department, Rotary Lights, the area Rotary Clubs and iFeed.

To put Food Drive Fridays into some perspective, Fortner said a normal “everyday” drive may bring in between 3,000-5,000 pounds. Their largest drive brings in 30,000.

The best things to donate are these five items: cereal, peanut butter, tuna, pasta, pasta sauce.

The drive happens from 11 a.m.—1 p.m.

LOCATIONS

o Onalaska area: Valley View Mall parking lot (by former Macy’s location): 3800 Hwy 16,
La Crosse, WI (MAP)
o Downtown La Crosse: La Crosse County parking lot behind the Courthouse & Law
Enforcement Center: 333 Vine St, La Crosse, WI (MAP)
o South side La Crosse: Big Lots parking lot: 3960 Mormon Coulee Rd, La Crosse, WI (MAP)

NONPERISHABLE DONATION EXAMPLES:

Canned items needed include meats (tuna, chicken), peanut butter, soup, fruit; boxed side dishes (stuffing, rices, potatoes); breakfast items (cereal, oatmeal, etc); canned ravioli and Spaghetti O’s, pasta & pasta sauce.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM and "liberal hack" | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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