Deanna Biesemeyer models the squirrel suit she made to help raise donations for the Payson Area Food Drive, which has hit 70 percent of its cash goals.
The Payson Area Food Drive Committee hailed it as a Christmas miracle: Not only did the food banks have enough food to make it through the holidays, thanks to munificent donations from the community, but the loveable squirrel logo pasted across stickers, buttons and boxes came to life Tuesday night, thanks to the creativity and generosity of one teen.
Deanna Biesemeyer constructed “Woody,” the food drive’s official mascot, and personally donned the costume, complete with a basket of acorns, at the committee’s meeting to the surprise of all in attendance.
Roger Kreimeyer, the PAF drive chairman, said it is heartwarming to see people, especially young people like Biesemeyer, stepping forward to help out.
Although the committee members are thrilled to have Woody on board, they stressed winter is far from over and food banks still need the community’s support to feed needy families.
Last month, the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank reports handing out 25,000 pounds of food, enough to fill 600 family baskets, which last roughly 10 days for a family.
“Our objective is to make sure food bank pantries don’t go dry this winter,” Kreimeyer said. “So far, we are half through the collection drive and halfway to our goal. Winter is getting deeper, and the need is still there.”
Since the drive kicked off in November, 24,300 pounds of food (50 percent of goal) has been collected, as well as $13,700 (70 percent of goal). A large portion of donations were collected through local businesses that generously placed boxes near their front doors and offered customers discounts if they donated food.
The board is concerned, however, that people will think that because the holidays are over, the food drive is over, although the food drive goes through the Super Bowl weekend in February.
To keep the momentum going, area churches are stepping up collection efforts and hope to bring in thousands of pounds of food.
The Boy Scouts will also collect food during a neighborhood drive. Expect to see bags dropped off on your doorstep in early January, with troops beginning pickups later in the month.
Woody also plans to get out in the community to collect food and is planning several special appearances including one at the Jan. 7 Payson Town Council meeting. Biesemeyer said it took her hours to construct the squirrel costume complete with hands and feet (Biesemeyer normally sells her creations for $1,500), but she said she was glad to donate her labor to a worthy cause.
“I have always wanted an opportunity to help someone else,” she said.
To donate, drop food off at Bashas’, Walmart, Safeway, the Payson or Star Valley Town Hall, Payson Roundup or mail a check to PAF Drive, P.O. Box 703, Payson, AZ 85547.
Items needed are canned vegetables and meat, along with beans, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, rice, soup, macaroni and cheese, pancake mix and syrup, juice as well as toiletries.