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  • Sue Smith Romero

A Fire Bus Filled, Thanks to Trina

How one volunteer collected more than 1200 pounds for the pantry.

Trina Gigliotti was watching the news when she saw a familiar face on the screen. Russ Brooks, president of the Utica Food Pantry, was talking about a local teenager’s recent donation. Trina knew Russ from his time as Utica Fire Chief. Since the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she had organized a food drive for veterans with the Utica Fire Department.

During the newscast, Trina noticed the nearly empty food pantry shelves in the background. “It broke my heart,” she said. “He gives back so much!” That’s when she decided she was going to fill those shelves.

Mobilizing Her Resources

It didn’t take long for Trina to launch into action. She called the current Utica Fire Chief Scott Ingersoll and asked to use the fire bus she had used for her previous food drives. He enthusiastically agreed and had some of the firemen drop it off at the Price Chopper on Genesee Street in Utica on Dec. 5.

Bundled up against the cold, Trina stayed with the bus for six hours, talking, joking, even dancing the whole time to get the shoppers’ attention. Her friendly energetic pleas had a powerful effect. Nearly everyone came out with something to put in the truck.

Memorable Moments

One woman pushed an overloaded grocery cart toward the bus with a little Christmas tree on top. Trina tells the story: “She said, ‘Here. This is for you.’ I thanked her for the tree, but the woman said, ‘No the whole cart is for you.’ I got all teared up. It must have been way over $100 worth of food.”

Soon another person approached the bus carrying a bag of cans to redeem for change. He asked Trina what she was doing and she explained. Then he went into the store. In a few minutes, he came out with one can of food to donate. “That meant as much as the full cart of groceries,” Trina said.

Getting the Word Out Helps

Trina had let the local media know about her food drive in advance, which brought people to the bus all day to unload donations from their car trunks. By the time she was done, the bus was loaded with boxes and bags full of food, toothbrushes, board games, shampoos, a lot of toilet paper, and more.

Trina said she was thrilled to see the tally when she delivered the goods to the pantry: 1,202.90 pounds!

As this east Utica resident shows so well, one person can make an enormous difference. Would you like to host a food drive too? Click here to find out how.

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