WESTMONT – Over the 24 years she’s been a mail carrier, Debra Heady has gotten to know the people behind the mailboxes.
She’s celebrated with them at weddings, graduations and block parties, mourned with them at funerals. She’s even asked them to keep watch over her most precious possession.
“When I was a young mom, I was able to find a babysitter on my mail route,” said Heady, who has had the same mail route for 20 of the 24 years she’s been delivering mail in Westmont. “It was great. I was able to work my route and check on my kids.
“I have gotten to know these people so well. We’re like family now. (Being a mail carrier) has been so rewarding for me, and it’s afforded my family a lot of things I otherwise wouldn’t have.”
That appreciation for her profession is why the longtime Westmont resident – she moved here 30 years ago – has been compelled to lead Westmont’s local efforts for the National Association of Letter Carriers’ annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive for the past three years.
This year, the 21st annual drive will be Saturday, when Westmont mail carriers will pick up food and other goods off porches and bring them to the People’s Resource Center in Westmont.
The drive collects mostly nonperishable items such as canned goods and other foods, as well as diapers and toilet papers, but carriers will take almost anything that can benefit the needy, Heady said.
Typically, the drive raises anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 pounds each year, she said.
“Some years are better than others, but we probably average about 7,000 pounds each year.”
Heady wanted to drive home the fact that the donated goods will benefit local people.
“With the floods, a lot of people are hurting right now and are needing to utilize the People’s Resource Center,” she said. “It’s a great way to help local people.”
Hank Anzelone is site coordinator at the People’s Resource Center in Westmont. He also lives on Heady’s mail route and has come to know her as a friend.
“She always has time for people,” said Anzelone, adding that the food donated during the drive will help the resource center’s pantry feed the more than 1,000 families who use the center.
“Every drive means a lot. This one especially will give us some breathing room. We’re always hustling to get more food for our pantry,” he said.
The recent floods have compelled more families to seek the People’s Resource Center’s aid.
“We had a few families come in because they lost all their food,” Anzelone said.
For information on the food drive, visit www.nalc.org/commun/foodrive.