Many Licking County residents stepped up to help less-fortunate neighbors during the holidays.
The Food Pantry Network of Licking County held the Elves in Action food drive every evening from Nov. 29 to Dec. 24 at the gazebo on the courthouse square.
The Food Pantry Network is "a cooperative that was established in 1981 to coordinate the acquisition and distribution of emergency food supplies by working through its member food agencies. The largest support comes from the local community in the form of cash contributions and food drives," according to the organization's website.
The network's food pantries include Pataskala LEADS and the Croton Church of Christ.
The network also partnered with a local radio station to fill a semitrailer full of food during a 36-hour marathon that began Dec. 20. At the end of the 36 hours, the trailer had been filled many times over.
"The goal was to 'Fill the Big Rig' for the Food Pantry Network of Licking County," said Chuck Moore, executive director of the network. "This goal was not only achieved, but quite frankly shattered. In just 36 hours, Licking County residents and WCLT listeners not only 'Filled the Big Rig'; they filled 8.5 big rigs."
Moore said more than 10,500 pounds of food were collected at the site.
He said Trillium Farms, Velvet Ice Cream and Harry & David donated an additional 50,555 pounds. Almost $13,000 in cash, which is worth 159,375 pounds of food, also was collected, he said.
In total, 220,521 pounds of food were donated to the pantry.
Moore said the Food Pantry Network of Licking County has distributed an average of 240,000 pounds each month during the past year.
The most recent donations will enable the pantry to supply food throughout Licking County for the entire month of January.
Moore said the "Fill the Big Rig" campaign was developed, organized, advertised and executed in less than a month.
He credited WCLT radio personality "Wild" Walley Schneider with putting the project together.
"He has really embraced what we are trying to do in helping to feed the county and has challenged the idea of what is possible," Moore said. "He saw what was happening with Elves in Action and the food (its members) collect on the courthouse square, and (he) felt the community could and would do more to help."
"Holy cow," Schneider said. "It's just overwhelming. I'm just proud to live in Licking County."
He said he was particularly inspired by an unemployed man who still wanted to donate.
"He gave me a dollar," Schneider said. "He said, 'That's all I have.' "