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A much-needed handout for food agencies in Garden City

Representatives from more than 100 food pantries and agencies across Long Island headed to Garden City Thursday to collect their share of thousands of pounds of food in a large summertime food drive run by Island Harvest.

Francine Kirton, food coordinator for the Circle of Love Ministry in Copiague, got to the parking lot of Nassau Community College just before 6 a.m.

"I'm really excited," Kirton said before hefting a small but deceptively heavy box of grape jelly into the back of her church's van. "It's all about helping people in the community."

Volunteers from the pantries were given boxes of foods - canned vegetables, meats, bread and pasta - out of the back of several large tractor trailers parked in the lot during the roughly four-hour blitz.

Randi Shubin Dresner, president and chief executive of Island Harvest, the Mineola-based hunger relief organization, said the drive is part of an annual summer food blitz that the agency has done in each of the past four years.

"Summertime is the hardest time for member agencies to get food," Dresner said, adding that during those months, donations slow down even as the need increases.

Edgar Clarke, a volunteer with the Massive Food Pantry in Hempstead, was the first one in line, arriving in a brown minivan at 5:30 a.m.

He said it was physically difficult work, lifting boxes of groceries into the van, but well worth the effort.

"I feel good about doing it," Clarke said.

Meanwhile, Karen Brucia and Hylkije Halili of the New LIFE Center in Uniondale waited with a shopping cart to pick up cans of green beans to take to their cars before heading back for more food.

"It makes me feel great," Brucia said of restocking the pantry. "We can help more people."

She said the pantry serves 800 to 900 people a month.

Lois Powell, program director for Miss Shelley's Upward Prep Inc., a school serving low-income families in Roosevelt, said the boxes of food would go far toward feeding the more than 140 children her agency is serving this summer.

"I've seen how it helps so many people," Powell said of the food blitz. "I told God last night, 'I pray Island Harvest's basket will never run dry.' "

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