NORRISTOWN — The timing of the Lt. Patty Simons Law Enforcement Food Drive’s 25th Anniversary during the pandemic could have been unfortunate.

But instead of bowing to the coronavirus, organizers have adapted and ramped up their efforts to reflect the importance of the milestone.

“I don’t think skipping it was ever a discussion amongst any of the committee members as we talked about plans for the next year,” said organizer Brett Wells. “We actually expanded the committee and the new committee members are the ones who brought on ideas about how to better manage Amazon wish lists and manage some online donation options as well so that people who normally participate can stay connected to the drive. So we’re benefitting already to make a great event even greater. The goal this year is to expand the number of police departments participating, expand the number of businesses participating and to provide different ways that people can give,” Wells added. “Not everyone is comfortable going out to the grocery store so there will be ways to give monetary gifts this year. We have folks setting up Amazon lists where stuff can be ordered and shipped to the collection location. We’re trying to be flexible and adaptive to the whole new environment we’re working in.”

That said, it’s also the 25th anniversary of the food drive named after the late Lt. Patty Simons, Norristown Police Department’s first female police officer, whose passion for helping the less fortunate helped raise the collection to a whole new level, Wells pointed out.

“At the same time, we wanted it to be bigger because it is the 25th year and we wanted to honor Patty’s memory in the right way. These were even more reasons to make it bigger.”

Each year, the Salvation Army and more than a dozen local law enforcement agencies and businesses have teamed up to collect several tons of non-perishable foods for one of the largest food collection programs in the region.

Added participation will hopefully mean not only more donations but also more food banks, said Wells, who came on board in 2004 when he was the director of the Greater Norristown Police Athletic League (PAL).

“Patty asked if we could use the PAL center as the collection point for the food drive rather than Borough Hall and it took off from there. After we lost Patty in 2007 we named it in her honor because it was something that was really important to her. It’s carried on and grown every year and this year hitting 25 years and doing it so long without Patty but still with the support of folks like Carol Capizzi and Rich (Captain Clowser of the Norristown Police Department) and (Officer) Mike Caparella, it’s important because people need the food and it’s an important  way to remember Patty’s legacy as well.”

The food collection has been ongoing in November and December. This year the food will be sorted at US Maintenance at Logan Commerce Center in Norristown on Dec. 16 and then delivered to the Salvation Army the following day.

“This has always been a feel-good project for me,” Wells said.

For updates follow the drive on Facebook at Lt. Patty Simons Law Enforcement Food Drive.

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