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Realtors gather food for hungry

Realtor's bag

Realtor's bag

During his 39 years in real estate, Paul Wernersbach has swallowed a lot he doesn’t like – especially seeing sellers throw out garbage bags of food just before moving out.

So he decided to turn leftovers into a helping hand, and that’s why the Long Island Board of Realtors will give out 20,000 bags to agents who want them, part of the third annual Realtors Against Hunger campaign being conducted in September. (That's one of the bags at left.)

Agents will hand them to sellers and let them know nonperishable food can go to local pantries and food pick-up nonprofits, specifically Island Harvest and Long Island Cares whose numbers are on the back of the bag. (The agents don't collect the bags.) Or agents can pack up food and nonperishable items, from clothes to paper goods, found in vacant, foreclosed homes.

In the Realtors Against Hunger campaign, about 100 real estate offices will serve as drop-off points for nonperishable food times, which will go to food nonprofits and local pantries. The initiative has grown since the Long Island Board of Realtors started it three years ago, after Newsday wrote a story about many more middle class families emptying out food pantries so they could save more of their income for mortgages.

“With a lot of sellers, they don’t ship their nonperishable items to their new locations,” Wernersbach said. “Most of them just throw it away. I don’t think many people want to pay to ship it to Florida, a box of cereal or 10 cans of tomato soup.

“When they’re leaving or moving, in that very tight window at the end, when they’re in a panic taking everything out of the house, you can see them lugging garbage bags out of the house. It’s really a shame because there is a lot of food that’s wasted . . . More than anything, there’s a tremendous need for people to find food, and the more poorer we get and the deeper the recession goes, people are suffering.”
Wernersbach, the broker owner of Sunset 3 Realty in Brightwaters,  said homeowners often have too much food they can’t take. He often sees shelves of food stored by older people, who either lived through the Great Depression or experienced war-time shortages.

“You get the older generation, the World War II and Korean vets, and they stock up stuff like it’s almost a bomb shelter,” he said. “My father, when he passed away, and he was a World War II vet, he had a closet full of toilet paper and tissues. I distributed it to all my sisters and all my kids and I think I still have some left and that was 10 years ago.”
For the past four weeks, the broker said he’s been telling the idea to prospective clients. Leaving a house that’s been a home can be sad, he said, but giving away food makes goodbye less heavy: “They’re very excited about the idea that they don’t have to move with that stuff and they feel good about leaving something behind and helping others that might do it.”

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