Harvesting to help those in need

HANCOCK – The holidays are a time of giving for many people, and Mark Pittillo is hoping the spirit of giving will help the Portage Health Michigan Harvest Gathering.

Pittillo, who is nutrition services director at Portage Health, said the Harvest Gathering was created by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association more than two decades ago.

“(For) 23 years they’ve been doing it,” he said.

There are 75 MHA members taking part in the Harvest Gathering, which began this week, Pittillo said.

There are collection bins for non-perishable food items in the lobby of the Portage Health main location in Hancock, as well as all the other Portage Health facilities, including the Fitness Center and University center, both in Houghton, and the clinic in Lake Linden.

Also taking part in the Harvest gathering is Baraga County Memorial Hospital, but Faye Lozier, in BCMH community relations, said they do theirs in November.

“We do it in conjunction with St. Vincent de Paul,” she said.

Lozier said BCMH has collection bins at the hospital main entrance and the cafeteria. There is a bin at the hospital fitness center on Broad Street in L’Anse, and at their Home Care and Hospice office on Memorial Drive in L’Anse.

Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital has bins in its facilities, also.

This year, Pittillo said Portage Health is doing the Harvest Gathering a little differently.

“We’ve added some fun stuff,” he said.

This year, Pittillo said Portage Health will be collecting food items Friday during the Copper Bowl football game between Hancock Central High School and Houghton High School. The hospital will also donate $250 to the booster club of the winning team.

During the Saturday football game between Michigan Technological University and Ferris State University, Pittillo said food items will be collected.

“For each item people put in the bin, they will get a raffle ticket,” Pittillo said.

The raffle winner will receive a football helmet signed by all the members of the team.

Also Saturday during the hockey game between Tech and Northern Michigan University at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena, there will be a similar raffle for food donors.

The winner will receive a jersey signed by all the hockey team members.

“It’s going to be a fun Friday and Saturday,” Pittillo said.

Last year, Pittillo said Portage Health collected 5,000 pounds of food items, and there will be an attempt to significantly exceed that.

“This year our goal is 10,000 pounds,” he said.

Last year, Pittillo said the 75 participating hospitals in Michigan collected 99,000 pounds of food, which means Portage Health’s 5,000 was 5 percent of that total.

“I think that speaks volumes about the (generosity of the) community, here,” he said.

Besides nonperishable food items, Pittillo said the collection will also include non-food items such as diapers and toilet paper.

“When people are having trouble making ends meet, they need more than food,” he said.

The items collected will be counted and weighed Oct. 29, Pittillo said, then given to the Community Action Agency Food Bank, which will distribute them.

“Every bit of it stays here,” he said.