In 1990 Denny LaBantschnig had a goal of filling the back of a pickup with food during the Christmas season and donating it to a food pantry. Twenty-two years and hundreds of truck loads of food later, the tradition of collecting food for area pantries is alive and well at Denny Ford.
The goal for this year's drive is 58 truck loads of non-perishable items, two for each of the 29 area food pantries that have requested assistance.
"Fifty-eight trucks is a hefty goal," said Lisa Frish, customer service manager at Denny Ford, and one of the organizers of the event. "We added two food pantries this year. There's always an increase in need."
The donations will go to food pantries located in Pulaski, Phelps, Dent, Maries, Texas, and Pulaski counties.
Frish said that many of the food pantries in the area are completely out of food and are counting on the shipments from the dealership.
"The number of food pantries grows every year," said Frish. "We've never turned anyone away that's called us."
While staff at the dealership donate to the drive, they can't fill the trucks by themselves, they need help from the community.
"We have several people that do large drives for us," said Frish.
Frish said area schools are instrumental to the success of the annual drive. She said students at Mark Twain Elementary School, Rolla Middle School, Rolla Technical Institute and Rolla Technical Center, and schools in Salem bring in enough food to fill a truck per school.
The drive is topped off with community members dropping off bags of food and monetary donations. Frish said the community always rises to the challenge of donating enough to reach the goal.
Donations can be dropped off in the showroom of Denny Ford from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday before the Dec. 17 deadline. Checks should be made out to Fill a Ford.