Angelo Sarkees always saw potential in collecting bottles and cans to generate funding for programs that needed it, and a little over six years ago, he started putting that theory into action.
At the Lewiston Jazz Festival in 2013, Sarkees, who lives in Lewiston, took it upon himself to start collecting used bottles and cans, which he then decided to donate to local food pantries. A few months later, he started gathering scrap metal to compliment his fundraising efforts.
He called his project Deposits for Food.
"I've been doing them both ever since," Sarkees said. "I've collected three quarters of a million bottles and cans and 200 tons of scrap metal."
During that time, Sarkees collected and donated $72,000 to local organizations including the Community Missions of the Niagara Frontier and the Heart, Love and Soul Food Pantry in Niagara Falls. A few years ago, he added Ransomville's Care and Share food pantry to the list of donation recipients. He says his goal is to reach $100,000 donated.
Sarkees said that he picked food pantries because his longtime friend, Joe Sbarbati, had worked for the Community Missions for many years and he wanted to help the organization out. From there, he decided to spread the donations around to other food pantries as well. He said he can't see giving the money to anyone else.
Christian Hoffman, director of public relations and development for the Community Missions, said the donations help their organization a great deal and they are grateful to Sarkees for his efforts.
"It’s remarkable the way (Sarkees) has been able to use his contacts and relationships to use what’s literally being throw away (to help others)," Hoffman said. "It helps us with our bottom line, all those dollars we get in ... go directly to support things like our food pantry and community kitchen."
As he enters his seventh year of operating Deposits for Food, Sarkees says that he's now less reliant on festivals for opportunities to collect bottles and cans. He said that he has regular donors who contribute all the bottles and cans they use in their homes directly to his cause.
Sarkees said he also has a number of business donors. He specifically credited Rob Morreale and John DeSantis at Collision Enterprises, Eric Matthews and Ken Bryan of the Brickyard/BBC Lewiston, Anthony DiMino at Tops Lewiston, Carmelo Raimondi of Carmelo's Restaurant Lewiston and the Grengas at One Niagara for their donations of containers and scrap.
Also credited was Doug Adamson and staff at the Porter Empty Return Center in Ransomville, which helps to process the empties Sarkees collects.
Sarkees issued a reminder that the holiday season is the most critical time for food pantries and urged those able to donate bottles and cans, money or their time to consider making a donation to or volunteering at a local food pantry.
Anyone interested in contributing to Deposits for Food can arrange to make a donation by contacting Sarkees at firstname.lastname@example.org.