Byron-Bergen Volleyball teams get their hands dirty to help feed the community

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             One Saturday morning each September, the Byron-Bergen Girls Varsity and JV Volleyball teams meet in the Bergen Evangelical Presbyterian Church parking lot at 9 a.m. There, they join other members of the community to wash, scrub, dry, sort, pack and load approximately 2000 pounds of potatoes.

             While many teams engage in community service fundraising, or awareness-raising, the “potato scrub” requires the team to get their hands dirty - literally. The annual community service project began three years ago when Hannah Catalino, a then sophomore, approached her volleyball coach with an idea for an unusual community service project.

             “There are a lot of ways athletic teams can be charitable and this one is not glamourous,” said Byron-Bergen Athletic Director Rich Hannan. “Every year these players tackle this project with good will and good humor and no fanfare. I am extremely proud of them.”

The potato gleaning, as it is officially called, is orchestrated by Stewart Freeman. Freeman has worked with area farmers for the last decade to collect extra and post-harvest crops including potatoes, butternut squash, onions, and cabbage. He stores the produce and makes deliveries to shelters, food pantries, and local families.

“What we’re doing is helping people who can’t afford to buy food get the chance to eat,” said senior Varsity Volleyball player Cynthia Morse. “That makes me feel happy.”

The “scrub”, which the volleyball players take part in, is crucial to this process because as the soil is scrubbed from the potatoes, spoiled spuds are identified and sorted out. If bad potatoes are packed with good ones, they will contaminate the entire box making the food inedible.

“We all participate, both Varsity and JV players,” said Catalino. “It’s a team bonding activity. We work together and get to know each other better while helping the community.”

Eventually, Freeman will deliver the potatoes that the volleyball players helped prepare to local soup kitchens and food pantries including the Open Door Mission in Rochester, the Batavia Salvation Army, and local organizations that deliver food to veterans and community members in need.