By Scott Kindberg
Jim Pullan Jr., hops into the Jamestown Mattress delivery truck and, at the direction of his brother-in-law, Keith Martin, backs it up so it is nearly end to end with a truck belonging to The Jock Shop. Martin, the athletic director at Jamestown Community College, and Pullan, who oversees Jamestown Mattress' sales and information technology, are joined by Sue Colwell, the executive director of St. Susan Center; Randy Marsh, co-owner of The Jock Shop; and Andrew Hill, Media One Group's director of operations and programming.
Preparations are under way for a benefit for the St. Susan Center from Dec. 19 to 21. Jamestown Community College athletic director, standing in back, is joined, from the left, by sponsors, Jim Pullan Jr. of Jamestown Mattress; Andrew Hill of Media One Group; St. Susan Center executive director Sue Colwell; and Randy Marsh of The Jock Shop.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Together, they stand in front of the vehicles and pose for a photograph. As they do so, their eyes begin to water as they look into the bright sunshine. There is hope, however, that another kind of water works erupts in the eyes of those who work at St. Susan Center when, in about two weeks, those same trucks roll up to its doors on Water Street and begin unloading boxes of food and opening envelopes of cash and gift cards. Call it the Holiday Haul for St. Susan's.
That is Martin's Christmas wish.
Now, it's up to the good people of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties to make his wish come true.
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Less than two weeks ago, Martin was driving his car and found himself deep in thought. One of the people he was thinking about was a college coach he knew in Connecticut who always did a radiothon for a charity.
"I always thought that (helping a charity) was something I'd always like to do,'' Martin said, "so a couple weeks ago it hit me that it was time. It was time to do something.''
That "something," Martin hopes, will benefit St. Susan Center, the food bank that has served more than 100,000 meals in 2013 already.
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"You hear of people that are without homes and they need a place to go,'' Martin said. "You hear those things and this time of year everybody is looking for a way to give back. All I'm trying to do is build that awareness."
To accomplish that, Martin will camp out in The Jock Shop parking lot on Harrison Street from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Dec. 19 and 20, and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 21. During those 36 hours, he hopes he will be inundated with donations of fruits, vegetables, pasta noodles, potatoes, rice, sauces, juices, milk, gift cards and cash.
In addition to athletes at JCC and their coaches, Martin has already enlisted the assistance of the athletic departments at Jamestown High School, Chautauqua Lake Central School and Panama Central School. He'd welcome more.
"We're going to have a competition to see what school system can bring in the most weight of food and most dollar amount,'' Martin said. "We'll have a tally board up with those weights for each school system."
And while the "winning" district will receive some kind of reward, Martin believes the true reward is simply in participating in something that is meant to help those in need.
"If we give (St. Susan Center) five cans more or five dollars more, and our athletes recognize the need and maybe sometime down the road they do something along these lines, we've done our job," Martin said.
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Colwell has been the executive director at St. Susan Center since 2009 and calls the work "her passion."
"The first time I had a homeless couple come in was probably one of the hardest things to deal with,'' she said. "I tried to be professional, but those are difficult stories. We do have homeless people come through. It's not like a big city probably, but there is a fair amount."
In addition to the homeless, Colwell said, St. Susan Center, which has a staff of seven and dozens of volunteers, also feeds entire families and the mentally challenged.
"They can get a meal every day of the week if they want to,'' she said.
And they do.
One lady, in her 90s, visits on a regular basis, Colwell said. Four siblings, who started coming when they were 7 or 8 years old, are still regulars, even without their mom and dad joining them.
"We've grown to love them,'' Colwell said. "This year they've actually been chosen to get gifts from another business. Somebody called me (earlier this week) and said, 'We want you to take them shopping. They need boots.' So I have the privilege to take these kids to get boots.
"We can't help but fall in love with these people, because you really do get to know them. We're feeding people, but we also develop relationships with them. The meals are only part of it. It's very important, but we do a lot more.''
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Pullan and Marsh didn't require much arm-twisting when it came to sponsoring Martin's idea.
"We have plenty of trucks'' Pullan said, "and we're looking to bring down a 26-foot truck that we hope to fill to the gills. If we need more space, we'll bring down more trucks. We're looking for a great turnout and really want the community to get around this, whether they bring one item or a bag full of items, it all goes for a good cause.''
Marsh was so impressed with the idea that he said, only half-kiddingly, that Martin could build a fire pit and roast marshmallows on The Jock Shop property from Dec. 19-21.
"He's hit the nail on the head,'' Marsh said. "It's the holidays. Getting all the high schools involved, our contacts, his contacts and making it an event that benefits Saint Susan Center is awesome. It's right down our path.''
Once the marathon "Holiday Haul"? is over by mid-afternoon on Dec. 21, Martin can't wait to make the short drive to Water Street.
"We're going to drive the truck right over to St. Susan's and deliver a whole lot of food and a whole lot of money,'' he said.
Don't bet against it.
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Participation in the food drive is not limited only to the participating high schools. Any organization is welcome to join in. To do so, email Martin at KeithMartin@mail.sunyjcc.edu.