By Lucinda Ryan
ALAMEDA -- Those empty "Scouting for Food" plastic bags hung on residential doorknobs throughout town are nothing new.
The Saturday bag pickup will mark the 25th year that Alamedans have helped the Alameda Council, Boy Scouts of America and their partners in the annual food donation campaign for the Alameda Food Bank.
Those nonperishable food donations will help feed Alamedans in real need.
At the food bank on Sunday, Andre Pastic sat with others, waiting to sign in for a monthly food package. Like the others, he seemed happy to be there, though the reasons they were all in the portable building on Thau Way were less than ideal.
Pastic smiled as he slid his pant leg up to reveal a scar, about a foot long, on his calf. Until two years ago, he was a construction worker. His injury, which required two surgeries, happened during a skiing accident. It dashed any chances of him returning to physical labor in the construction industry.
Now 52, Pastic is attending classes at College of Alameda with a goal to transfer to Cal State East Bay and earn a bachelor's degree. Without the food bank, he said, he doesn't know what he would do.
"This place has helped me tremendously," he said. He said the food he receives has forced him into eating better because he has had to learn to cook rather than buying fast food.
Manuel, who asked that only his first name be used, lost his job last year at Mineta San Jose International Airport, where he worked for four years. He has two young children. The 26-year old is considering joining the Army.
Tony, a house painter for 28 years, had to retire because of an undisclosed illness.
"If it wasn't for them," he said of the food bank volunteers and community donors, "I wouldn't have food."
Barbara, a lifetime Alamedan, is a senior citizen living solely on Social Security. She worked all her life but has no pension.
"By the time I pay rent and bills, there's not much left," she said.
Food Bank Executive Director Hank Leeper said nearly one in 13 Alameda households receive food bank assistance. He said residents should place their donations in the bags or boxes and place them on the front doorstep between 8:30 and 9 a.m. so they are ready for pickup by the Boy Scouts and other volunteers from 9 a.m. to noon. If possible, attach the informational paper door hanger that came with the bag to the donation.
Other agencies that volunteer in the food drive are: the Rotary Club; Alameda Elks Lodge; American Red Cross, Girls Inc. of the Island City; Girl Scout troops; and U.S. Coast Guard personnel.