Hundreds of bins and boxes of bagged food items - rice, pasta, canned goods and meats - filled the loading dock area shoulder high, lined pantry walls and spilled over into the kitchen area Monday at the Good Samaritan Center in Lenoir City.
Six volunteers spent six hours Saturday unloading large amounts of food collected in the 2013 National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger event.
Loudon Post Office brought in 7,704 pounds and Lenoir City Post Office collected 8,054 pounds Saturday for a total of 15,758. The drive more than doubled what was collected in the event locally last year.
"Isn't this amazing?" Karen Bowdle, GSC executive director, said. "Our pantry runneth over. This has been exciting, gratifying and heart warming. I can't say enough about this wonderful community. It is going to take a long time to sort it all out, but nobody here minds that."'
Eddy Shubert, Good Samaritan Center pantry manager, agreed.
"Our Loudon County people outdid themselves this year," he said. "It will take us at least two weeks to get this sorted and shelved. And it's still coming in."
Shubert said the donations will replenish pantry stock for the summer months and help feed Loudon County residents who are hungry.
"We give out 5,000 pounds of food every week, and each order will feed a family of four for three or four days," Shubert said. "This will probably feed 300 families for three or four days. We are really proud of the people of Loudon County. The letter carriers exceeded all our expectations."
The food drive is the largest local Stamp Out Hunger food drive collection yet, but it is not the largest drive conducted by GSC. The Battle of the Bridge, a competition between Loudon and Lenoir City high schools, nets larger amounts.
Scott McCarty, National Association of Letter Carriers shop steward, was jubilant at the success of the food drive.
"It was a terrific turnout, over double what we did last year. We picked up more bags of food - it was unbelievable. On my route, I had the most I ever collected," he said. "This is a testimonial to the people of Loudon County and how they help out their neighbors."
Bowdle said the food drive will be a tremendous help in an economy that has not rebounded quickly.