Fair Haven Concerned was the recipient of about 70 boxes – some 3,800 pounds – of food collected recently by Castleton University freshman Perry Ragouzis through a food drive he organized.
Ragouzis, who brought the idea from his high school in Colorado, is a political science major and vice president of Student Community Relations at Castleton. He said, “In Colorado, the food drive collects enough food to feed 1,000 to 1,200 families for two weeks. I took the methods we used there and applied them to Castleton.”
Ragouzis’ method of collecting food for the drive was different than the usual leaving-a-box-in-the-office approach. “I stood outside of Shaw’s in Rutland with lists of nonperishable items,” he said, which he gave to shoppers as they entered the store.
Ragouzis and a crew of about 25 other Castleton students stood outside the store for five weekends starting right after Halloween. “We’d be at Shaw’s on Saturdays and Sundays and then afternoons on Fridays,” he said. “It was about 10 hours a day.”
Fair Haven Concerned executive director Tracy Yendell said, “Perry’s approach was very targeted. He’d give shoppers a list of what was needed, and he had a good idea: ‘If I’m standing there, they shop and they come out and give it to me.’ He is smart and dedicated.”
Ragouzis said all in all the drive collected enough food to fill 100 boxes. “It was enough food to feed about 100 families of four for two weeks,” he said.
Distribution day was Sunday, Dec. 5, during which Ragouzis distributed about 30 boxes of food on the Castleton University campus. With monetary donations in addition to food, Ragouzis was also able to purchase perishable items like eggs, cheese, milk, bread and butter.
After the distribution on campus, Ragouzis was left with about 70 boxes at the Castleton University Campus Center. That’s when he called Yendell. “I was prepared to drive boxes over to Fair Haven Concerned,” he said, “but Tracy had the Fair Haven Union High School boys basketball team help us load up the boxes and take them to Fair Haven.”
In addition to the boys basketball team, assistance with the transport of food to Fair Haven on Tuesday, Dec. 21 came from Fair Haven Concerned volunteers and board members as well as students, staff and professors from Castleton.
Yendell said, “We’ve given out some of the food, but we still have a lot. We received things we normally can’t get our hands on like cereal, and that it happened right before Christmas was a real bonus.”
As successful as the food drive was, Ragouzis says it could be even more successful next year. “One of the rough things this year is that this hadn’t happened before, and people were skeptical.” He says he reached out to 35 local businesses, and only one decided to donate. He also contacted about 10 grocery stores, and “Shaw’s was the only one willing to have you stand out front and collect food.” Ragouzis said he didn’t have the manpower this year to contact the corporate offices of grocery stores but hopes to be able to next year and get permission to collect food at more grocery stores in the area.
Yendell said, “It was a really nice way for the community to come together, and I wanted everyone to know what Perry did.”
Ragouzis said the second annual Spartan Family Food Drive will likely begin in October.