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TEACHERS GET SWEET SATISFACTION PICKING CORN FOR FOOD BANK

An eager bunch of teachers, food bank workers and neighbors gave up their Saturday morning to pick the last of Raymond J. Dietz's crop of Silver Queen corn -- all of which was taken by a refrigerated truck to the Food Bank of Western New York in Buffalo.

Donned in T-shirts, faded jeans and dusty sneakers, teachers said they were very happy to help with the third annual cause on such a sunny day.

"I think it's good for us to work as a group together and do things for the community and set examples for the students we teach," said Eileen M. O'Neal, who teaches special education at Lewiston-Porter High School.

Richard E. Owen, a neighbor, also helped pick the crop of between 3,500 and 4,000 dozen ears of corn over the past three weekends. This was his third time picking for the group.

"It's, I guess, just satisfying that, yes, you're really contributing something satisfying to the world . . . When you've got 10 or 15 people, it really goes quickly."

Ownes' son, Timothy R., allows Dietz, who has a nearby farm, to plant about five acres of corn on his land because Owen said he doesn't want to mow so much grass.

Dietz, a teacher at Lew-Port, who was using a tractor with a loader to lift 18 bins of corn into a food bank truck, said, "What I'm trying to do here is create a joint venture by organizations and individuals to provide produce for the food bank."

He would not comment on how much the crop was worth at roadside stands, where typically a dozen ears of corn commands $2 this summer, meaning Dietz could have made between $7,000 and $8,000.

"That's not the point. We're providing produce for the food bank," said Dietz. "The food bank feeds children . . . and I think this country has failed to provide for the needs of the children."

Dietz also is president of the teachers union of the Lewiston-Porter School District. It took the workers about three hours to pick the corn.

The group consisted of about six teachers, four neighbors of Dietz, five food bank employees and three farm workers.

In addition, Lewiston-Porter School Superintendent Walter S. Polka, Assistant Superintendent Don W. Rappold and board member Mark R. Shea helped pick corn.

"We feel that we're very blessed and that we have a responsibility to help other people," said Dietz's wife, Suzanne, a counselor in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District.

"Its a new experience to come here to help out. That's the reason why," said Darnell D. Mackin, a volunteer from the food bank. "I think more people should come out and volunteer."

Frank J. Silver, warehouse manager for the food bank who pulled up in a truck to transport the corn to Buffalo, said the combined effort was unique.

He said a lot of farmers make donations to the food bank, "But I don't think any does for us like Ray and his wife . . . and when it comes Monday, all this corn (will be) distributed to four counties."

Silver said organizations in Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties will receive corn from the Dietzes, including the City Mission in Buffalo, Heart & Soul food pantry in Niagara Falls, the Cattaraugus Community Action Organization and the Chautauqua County Rural Ministry.

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