Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow -- nor a full month of all three -- kept letter carriers in Maryland yesterday from the start of their annual food drive on behalf of the hungry.
The weeklong campaign began with a news conference at the main branch of the post office.
Organized by Larry V. Adam, founder of Harvest for the Hungry, the post office push has a goal of more than 1 million pounds of food, 50 percent more than last year.
The carriers will do most of the heavy lifting, picking up the bags of canned goods set out by postal customers on their porches and by their mailboxes.
Food also may be left in bins at 300 locations, including stores and branch post offices throughout the state and the District of Columbia.
Though weather may have delayed some contributions, this year's campaign was off to a good start because the Pillsbury Co. delivered 20 cases of canned vegetables Thursday.
This will be the third year in which postal employees have collected food along their routes, although the Baltimore district's 9,000 employees have been making contributions to Harvest for the Hungry for five years.
"The carriers make it happen," says Richard W. Rudez, district manager for customer services in Baltimore. "They're committed it because they see the problem every day."
Velandus A. Gholston, who has delivered mail for eight years in Baltimore, said the carriers often see children and elderly people who appear to be undernourished.
"Nobody likes to see people hungry," he said.
The postal workers' campaign, he said, picks up where Christmas holiday giving leaves off.
And an energetic pickup is needed, according to Bill Ewing, head of the Maryland Food Bank, who attended yesterday's news conference.
"Demand on food banks is high, and supplies are dwindling," he said.
The donated food is distributed in the areas where it is collected, Mr. Adam said.
Representatives of Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. William Donald Schaefer attended the news conference.
Luther Starnes, the governor's coordinator of citizen services, said efforts by groups such as Harvest for the Hungry are crucial components of the effort to feed Marylanders. Government must have the help of citizens and citizen organizations, he said.
Harvest for the Hungry was founded by Mr. Adam eight years ago. It has collected and helped to distribute $10 million worth of food, under the auspices of the Girl Scouts, labor unions, businesses and other government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration.
The drive will end Saturday, but citizens are encouraged to drop off contributions of food throughout the year.
"People can keep giving as long as they want to give," Mr. Rudez said.
HOW TO GIVE
You can give food to the postal workers' campaign for the needy one of two ways:
* Leave food where you get your mail. Your carrier will pick it up.
* Take it to your local post office or designated stores. About 300 locations are available in Maryland and in Washington, D.C.