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'Samson' back delivering for Cheektowaga food pantry

Samson, the mighty delivery truck that was stripped of its catalytic converters during a theft earlier this month at Resurrection Life Food Pantry in Cheektowaga, is back to work.

The 18-foot truck transported up to 5,000 pounds of food donations daily to needy families until the theft. The loss of the delivery vehicle could not have occurred at a more critical time for one of the largest food pantries in the area, said the pantry director.

“It rendered us pretty much dead in the water. Without the catalytic converters, the truck was basically inoperable,” said Kim Reynolds, director. “The thieves just didn’t affect one person, they affected the community.”

On Thursday, after a $2,000 repair to the truck, Samson was back in service, used to deliver toys and food to 200 children and 200 low-income senior citizens. Volunteers from Journey’s End Refugee School Impact Program helped unload the goods, said Reynolds.

Cheektowaga police have dealt before with catalytic converter thefts, said Assistant Chief Michael Sliwinski, who described it as a crime of opportunity.

“The thieves would never come into the driveway of your house and take [the converter off your car]. It’s noisy. They go to businesses because no one lives there."

Thieves are after the metal in the converter, which can bring $25 to $200 at scrapyards depending on the type of vehicle from which the part was taken, said Sliwinski. “Converters from foreign vehicles go for more money,” he said.

Samson was donated to the pantry in August 2017 by an anonymous patron. During the 10 days the truck was out of commission, deliveries and pickups were made by a small army of pick-up trucks and vans driven by volunteers.

“Seniors are most vulnerable when it comes to going out and getting food,” said Reynolds. “We go to five different low-income senior apartments twice a month.”

In addition, 974 families rely on the pantry for supplemental emergency food, said Reynolds, who said poverty is spreading to Buffalo's inner-ring suburbs.

“As Buffalo’s boom continues to happen, we have gentrification and an upgrading of residential properties,” said Reynolds. “It creates an influx of middle-class families, shifting the poverty to inner-ring suburbs of Lackawanna, Cheektowaga and Tonawanda.”

Resurrection Life Food Pantry at 2145 Old Union Road, in operation for 22 years, is a registered distribution center for the Food Bank of Western New York. It is staffed by 140 volunteers and has 20 corporate partners including The Buffalo News Neediest Fund.

The Buffalo News Neediest fund is in its 37th campaign, with donated toys distributed to needy families through the Holiday Partnership, which is administered by 211 WNY-Olmsted Center for Sight. Monetary donations go to the Food Bank of Western New York, which provides extra holiday food for clients at certain Erie County food pantries.

“We want to focus on the families who want a hand up not a handout,” said Reynolds. “Those are the folks you know will get out of the cycle of poverty. They just need a little push.

“We vet our folks, but we don’t discriminate," said Reynolds. “Everyone who has a need and who shows they meet the requirement will get assistance for food or toys.”

Donations may be sent by check to The News Neediest Fund c/o The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 2667, Buffalo, NY 14240-9873 or at BuffaloNews.com/newsneediest.

Gifts of new, unwrapped toys will be accepted at: The Buffalo News lobby; Wegmans stores; Shea’s Performing Arts Center; Erie County Fairgrounds Festival of Lights; Mattress Firm (all Western New York locations); Hunt Real Estate’s Western New York offices; Jim Murphy Buick/GMC (3000 Walden Ave., Depew); Excuria Salon & Spa (5725 Main St., Williamsville); Canisius College Koessler Athletic Center (1829 Main St.); and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve “Toys for Tots” locations (see list at buffalo-ny.toysfortots.org). More information is available at BuffaloNews.com/newsneediest.

Cheektowaga food pantry hampered as thief targets delivery truck

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