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Operation Food Basket helps feed more than 300 needy families in Rochester.

WEBSTER — Xerox employees and retirees came together with local com­panies and agencies on Dec. 20 to help package and send food to the local poor through Operation Food Basket.

Gary Mroczek, a Xerox retiree who helps organize the operation, said it was able to feed 373 families in the poorest sections of inner-city Rochester, more than 2,000 people. The families get food through House of Mercy, Step­ping Stones and Community Place, organizations committed to helping feed the poor. Employees, retirees and local volunteers pack up the food and deliver canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, potatoes, cereal and other necessities directly to the families.

"It's a fully integrated campaign," Mroczek said. "There's not too many around like this. There's a lot of cam­paigns that buy food and deliver it to the agencies, and they have to figure out how to pack it for them. (Operation Food Basket) delivers directly to the families, which saves the agencies a lot of work."
Mroczek said the food typically lasts about a week for the families.

"We try to make sure it will last and isn't perishable that will go in a mat­ter of days," Mroczek said. "With most families, this food will last them a week. Some people have told us it will last up to a month. Money is still coming in. People are still donating."

Local companies also donate money, volunteers and services to help the operation. Dunn and Rice Design, Inc. offered to design a complementary website last year to help the campaign. Xerox donates facilities and security when the volunteers pack up the food to deliver to the families.

Operation Food Basket started 32 years ago when Mroczek and his co-worker Tony Carlisi took part in a grab-bag gift-giving.

"You picked the name out of a hat and you had to buy them a $5 funny gift," Carlisi said. "The next year, I said they should give me the $5, I'll get an­other name off the tree, and we'll feed the needy. I collected $195. We now collect about $50,000."

Sister Grace Miller of the House of Mercy said she was grateful for Xerox and the other companies who made this operation possible.

"Xerox takes care of about two-thirds of our agency families. It launches all of our giving. People will be flock­ing the House of Mercy," Miller said. "They're mostly concerned about their children having food. We're able to do that because of the generosity of the community."

House of Mercy also gives toys and gifts to the children of the families it helps and was open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to feed those in need.

"It's an exciting time," Miller said. "We have volunteers in the House of Mercy that love the spirit. Everybody chips in and helps out. It's a joyful time, to see the joy of people who don't have much. We still have people who don't have the essentials. The plight of the poor is heavy. We're glad we're there, and we're there because of the people who give us donations and make sure we have the money to continue."