AURORA -- Christmas is a time of bounty for many, particularly in Aurora where residents donate generously to the Aurora Food Pantry, but historically, summer has been a different story.

Summer is a traditional time for belt-tightening for those dependent year round on the work of the Aurora Food Pantry, said John Monroe, who co-chairs Fill a Bag, Feed a Family with his wife Katie this year.

"What happens is we fill the Aurora Food Pantry, which is run by the Volunteers of America," he said. "During the summertime when people go on vacation, they forget to donate food and other things to the pantry."

Donations should begin to pick up again in the fall, added Katie.

"Companies and schools tend to do a lot during the holidays, so the pantry stays full during the fall and winter months," she said. "Donations get up and running again in September."

Now in its third year, Fill a Bag, Feed a Family, founded by Bruce Harris, is a communitywide effort to take the pinch out of the summer months. John said many churches, families and organizations team up for the effort.

The event kicks off April 22, when Katie said a small army of volunteers will distribute empty bags on front steps of local homes. Residents are asked to fill the bag with items listed on a letter left with each bag.

Volunteers come back to collect the bags April 29, then help Sue Altman, who runs the pantry, organize the donations. The food is stored in the Aurora Baseball League's warehouse.

"Without the ABL, this would be a very daunting task," said John. "We need the space. It's a huge blessing for the pantry because the ADL doesn't charge us for use of the space."

Last year, about 25,000 pounds of food were donated.

"Our goal this year is 26,000 pounds," said John. "If, for some reason, someone forgets to put the food out on the doorstep, inside is a self-addressed envelope, and they can send a check to the VOA or the Aurora Food Pantry."

Becky Carlino-Madigan, development director for the Volunteers of America, said the spring drive makes the summer much easier for many.

"It's certainly been a blessing," she said of Fill a Bag, Feed a Family. "With that kind of donation, it alleviates a lot of stress for us. If we don't have Fill a Bag, Feed a Family, we have to raise and spend more money because we don't want any family to go hungry."

Carlino-Madigan said the Aurora program has been such a success that Harris now works with other communities to replicate it. "This is unlike anything I've seen," she said.

For the second year in a row, John said an anonymous donor has established a fundraising challenge to the community.

"He and his wife have agreed to match up to $5,000, and he requested that the Aurora High service learning class be the group to organize collecting the other half," said John. "We're very excited about this opportunity. Last year, he donated $3,000, and this year he upped it to $5,000 with a match."

Service learning class member Emma Frankman is spearheading the cash collection, he added.

Carlino-Madigan said cash donations are welcome.

"Sue will go out once a week or every other week to buy hamburger or frozen pizzas or whatever to round out the food boxes," she said, adding any perishables, including fruit and vegetables, are also bought as needed.

For more information about Fill a Bag, Feed a Family, call John at 330-217-8217.

SCOUTING FOR FOOD

Boy Scout Troop 269 and Cub Scout Troop 3269, both sponsored by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, and Boy Scout Troop 265, which is supported by Aurora United Methodist Church, are conducting a food and nonperishables drive for the Aurora Food Pantry as well.

On April 29, the Scouts will accept donations at Walmart in the Marketplace at Four Corners on Route 43. Volunteers will ask shoppers to make a purchase and donate it to the pantry. Since 2004, Scouting for Food has collected and donated more than 50,000 pounds of food and $5,000 to the pantry.

For more information about the Scouts' effort, call Gary Jancsurak at 216-570-6274.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188