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Friday, October 31, 2014
Niagara County Majority Leader Rick Updegrove stands at the lectern with PB&J Drive founder Pete Robinson to his side. PB&J drive volunteers surround them. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS)


The official proclamation naming November as Peanut Butter & Jelly Month.
“This is a good reminder of why we’re here.”

That’s how Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, explained what has become an annual tradition to a pair of new lawmakers Tuesday: the donation, by Majority Caucus legislators, of a heaping portion of peanut butter and jelly to boost the local Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive.

“We are here to improve our community, and to support the people who work every day toward that goal,” Updegrove said. “The Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive turns five this year, and it has become a local charitable effort we should all be proud of. Along the way, it’s helped thousands of people.”

Updegrove and Legislator Wm. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, welcomed the volunteers at the core of the Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive Tuesday night, presenting them with a proclamation declaring November “Peanut Butter & Jelly Month” in Niagara County. Majority Caucus lawmakers also donated 11 dozen jars of sandwich spreads: six dozen jars of peanut butter, equally divided between creamy and chunky, three dozen jars of grape jelly, and two dozen jars of strawberry jam.

Lawmakers showing personal support for the PB&J Drive has become an annual fall tradition in Niagara County. Updegrove and his colleagues embraced the unique food drive in its second year, when he, McNall, and Legislator Tony Nemi, R-Lockport, made a surprise donation of six dozen jars of peanut butter and jelly to support the drive.

Since then, support for the drive has been a rite of passage in the Majority Caucus, with Republican lawmakers expected to each make a sizeable donation to the local effort. It also has, in some years, provoked good-natured competition between the Legislature’s Majority and Minority, with the two groups vying to show more generosity to the drive.

“The Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive keeps food that children like on the shelves of our local food pantries, and we wanted to recognize them tonight for proving, five years in a row, that good people can make the world better,” McNall said. “Making our caucus’s donation to the Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive is one of the truly satisfying things we do every year, because it’s good to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with neighbors who are making good things happen for both people they know and total strangers.”

One of the major forces behind the drive has been New York State Courts Sgt. Pete Robinson, who helped organize the inaugural drive and every year’s collection since. Robinson was on hand Tuesday night at the Niagara County Courthouse.

“People want to be a part of something that they can see the fruit of their labor,” Robinson said in a recent interview in East Niagara Post. “You can make a change one jar at a time ... like our logo says, 'spread the love.’”

Niagara County legislators pose with PB&J volunteers.
That message resonated with freshman legislators Randy R. Bradt and Richard L. Andres, both of North Tonawanda, who made what they both said they hope will be the first of many donations Tuesday.

“As a social studies teacher, I try to instill in my students that they can make the world a better place, but they need to start with their own communities,” Andres said after handing a dozen jars of grape jelly over to Robinson. “The Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive proves that’s true. It was a real honor to get to talk with these great volunteers.”

The Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive will continue through Dec. 6. Individuals interested in learning more can visit the Drive’s Facebook page.

Lawmakers also urged county residents to do what they can to support the drive, pausing for a bi-partisan photo with PB&J Drive volunteers to promote the event. Individuals interested in supporting the drive are invited to stop by the Niagara County Clerk’s Office in the Courthouse, 175 Hawley St., Lockport, or any of the sites listed on the PB&J Drive Facebook page.

Niagara County Legislature Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso said his party will be making a donation to the drive, as well.

Information on the drive is also available by calling Robinson at 510-7108.

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