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Lower Valley families will benefit from friendly competition to collect food

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
NEP workers, (from left) Tom Grove, Kevin Spark and Tim Letourneau load some of the over 6,000 food items employees of NEP collected into the back of a van to donate to the Lower Valley Food Bank on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.

A high-tech video production company with worldwide reach and Harmarville roots is helping to make a brighter Thanksgiving Day for hundreds of Lower Valley families.

NEP, which employs about 800 worldwide, provides mobile video studios, IT services, and more for Sunday and Monday night football, the Olympics and many other events.

Employees and the corporation donated more than 6,000 food items and $6,000 to the Lower Valley Community Food Bank on Friday.

NEP employees learned about the need for donations to area food banks and decided to do something. The food drive started Nov. 1. A friendly competition spurred on contributions after human resources coordinator Ruth Minyon used the firm's newsletter to give an update.

That inspired even more competition, said Lynda Wilkes, NEP's senior vice president of human resources.

The corporation sponsors a golf tournament to help charities, but employees decided to do something for Thanksgiving, too, she said.

On Friday morning, two large vans were loaded with hundreds of cans of food and other items. The corporation enhanced the work by donating $1 for each item — about $6,000, said marketing manager Meredith Knight.

“That will help us get through Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” said food bank coordinator Kathy Otterbeck.

Minyon called last week to tell the Lower Valley Community Food Bank about the drive, but Otterbeck didn't quite know what to expect.

All donations are appreciated, but the timing of NEP's drive will really make a difference this year.

“This was very significant — very significant — but there's more of a need due to the times,” Otterbeck said.

Last month's food distribution greatly depleted its shelves.

“We had 197 families for our last distribution. That was a very high amount for us, and for Thanksgiving, we're looking at 225 families. The NEP donation will help us fill the boxes for the families,” said volunteer Esther Blomgren, 84, of Springdale.

Lower Valley churches, Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, Allegheny Valley School District employees, Scouts, the Postal Service and others usually contribute, Otterbeck said.

Yet the need is dramatically increasing, too, she said.

During the 2012 Curtiss-Wright strike, some of the strikers received assistance and some helped the food bank.

“They serve us and we serve them,” Otterbeck said. “And Curtiss-Wright treats us wonderfully.”The food bank sees senior citizens who can't make ends meet, people who work but don't have enough money to feed their families, and unemployed people.

Applicants must prove residency and show proof of income.

In addition to needing contributions, the food bank would welcome more volunteers.

“We especially need men to help with lifting heavy boxes,” Blomgren said.The NEP money will allow the food bank to buy more fresh vegetables and other goods.

Recipients will get vouchers for turkeys.

“This came in just in time,” Blomgren said. “On Monday, we start packing for Thanksgiving.”

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711.

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