Tuesday might have been cold and blustery, but there was warmth to be found in the parking lot of the Sugar Cane Festival building in New Iberia’s City Park.
A row of box trucks lined one side of the parking lot for the FoodNet for Families food drive, waiting for the community donations that come every year during the event. Volunteers were either carting boxes of food from the drop off point, arranging the food in the trucks or fighting the wind and light but persistent rain to trap a bit of warmth with tarps and heaters.
“It could be worse,” said Ellen Nora of Solomon House, one of the groups there to receive groceries from a generous public. “We’ve had way worse rain than this.”
Nora and other Solomon House volunteers rearranged the bungee cords holding the side tarps on the frame of a canopy next to the group’s truck. A flame barrel stood in the center, its small gas flame providing heat for the group.
In addition to Solomon House, local organizations benefiting from the drive include St. Nicholas Concern in Lydia, St. Francis Diner, Disch-DeClouet Social Service Center, The Glorious Church and Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.
Despite the rain and increasing cold though, the donations were still coming in for the 33rd annual drive.
“We started out a little slow, but it has been catching up,” said Johnny Indest, chairman of the Iberia Parish FoodNet effort. “We received a couple of large donations from grocers. Highland Baptist sent two trucks of goods that they had collected. We may not top last year, but we will do well.”
As it turned out, food donations were not that far off pace. Indest said that by 6 p.m., the drive had collected more than 10,000 pounds of food, slightly less than the 12,000 pounds on average the last three years.
“Everyone was uplifted by the outpouring of support from the community, despite the bad weather,” Indest said.
Indest also said the weather may increase the likelihood of cash donations in lieu of food, although the group would not know how much cash was donated right away.
“The monetary donations were consistent throughout the day,” Indest said. “We usually collect around $8,000 in cash in addition to the food donations.”