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Food drive honors late Longmeadow police officer

LONGMEADOW – The Longmeadow Food Pantry at the Adult Center will honor a member of the Longmeadow Police Department by helping families celebrate the Fourth of July this summer.

Staff, volunteers and officers will put together packs of summer food essentials for all of the families that utilize the pantry in memory of Officer Mark Mendrala, who passed away last year.

Erin Koebler, the outreach coordinator for the Longmeadow Council on Aging, explained that Mendrala had received a charitable donation of $200 from Big Y that he left to the pantry.

“Officer Mendrala would come in here every couple of weeks and check in. He was sort of on the beat with us a little bit,” he said. “When he got this donation, he told us he really wanted to keep that in town and in the spirit of collaboration, maybe work with Big Y to capitalize on that donation and see what we could do for the Longmeadow Food Pantry.”

Additionally, Big Y plans to contribute an additional $100 and the pantry itself is contributing $120 toward the project.

“We were able to use all that to put together a list of summer food essentials such as condiments, macaroni for macaroni salad, some drinks, and stuff like that,” Koebler said. “We’re going to pack them in bags and give them to each food pantry recipient the week before the Fourth of July.”

All of the shopping and packing will be performed by volunteers, including members of the Police Department. The hope is to make this food drive an annual occurrence in Mendrala’s honor.

Koebler added that Big Y has been a very generous corporate partner with the pantry, regularly providing produce through a collaboration with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts

The Longmeadow Food Pantry serves approximately 30 households and is open to town residents. Those looking to take advantage of the service participate in an intake procedure that helps the staff determine if the recipients are eligible for any other support and resources such as SNAP benefits and fuel assistance.

“We try to do an assessment of the situation overall,” Koebler said.

Those interested in volunteering or are in need of assistance should contact Koebler at 565-4150 or ekoebler@longmeadow.org.