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Fifth annual duck race to benefit Bridgeport Food Pantry is Sept. 7

A young spectator views all of the ducks who navigated Chittenango Creek in last year’s”Don’t Duck Hunger” duck race fundraiser for the Bridgeport Food Pantry. This year’s race will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.

A young spectator views all of the ducks who navigated Chittenango Creek in last year’s”Don’t Duck Hunger” duck race fundraiser for the Bridgeport Food Pantry. This year’s race will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. Photo by Jean Hadden.

— “People don’t understand, we buy our food. They think it’s given to us,” Hedrick said. “I don’t think they understand we have to buy it from the Food Bank. And that doesn’t count the turkeys at Christmas and Thanksgiving and the rest of the special things we try to do.”

Running a food pantry is an expensive proposition, Hedrick said, especially when the number of families in need keeps increasing.

“Last year, the bills were around $70,000. I don’t know what they’ll be this year, but I’m afraid they’ll be near that bad,” she said. “We’re looking to make $25,000 this year. The secretary of the church told me we have $5,000 in our account, so I’m really hoping for a success.”

And it’s not like Hedrick takes a salary; the Bridgeport Food Pantry is all volunteer. All the money goes to feed struggling families.

“There’s just such a desperate need right now,” Hedrick said. “Every month, I get 10 new families. People work, but they can’t afford to eat.”

The duck race helps the pantry pay for that food; it’s the organization’s largest fundraiser. Hedrick came up with the idea for a duck race in 2009 after hearing about a similar event in Baldwinsville. She approached the community leaders and, with their support, agreed to take on the bulk of the responsibility for fundraising herself.

“I call myself the Bridgeport Beggar,” she said. “I just pound the pavement every year and go out there and ask for donations, and people are always more than willing to give them.”

In fact, the fundraiser has been so successful that the Food Bank of Central New York has asked Hedrick for advice; she spoke at their conference two years ago to explain the effort she and her fellow volunteers put on every year.

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