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Brotherly Love: Famous Visitor Inspires County's Food Drive

By Ukee Washington

LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) -- A Montgomery County food drive was inspired by a famous visitor.

Last year, Pope Francis stayed at St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Lower Merion for a night. Dan Weckerly of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board remembers it well.

"Here's a world figure not only coming to Philadelphia, but coming to stay in Montgomery County," Weckerly said. "We were just knocked back on our heels about it."

County officials wanted to give the visiting pontiff a tangible thank you, but what?

"Is it a physical gift? Is it a bowl? Is it an engraved plaque? Something that we present to him as physical? Or is it something else?" Weckerly said.

They chose food, not for the pope, but for the poor. For the second year in a row, they're collecting non-perishable food countywide. Weckerly said results are pouring in.

The timing is right. September is Hunger Action Month.  "The Thanksgiving style food drives have not yet kicked in," said Weckerly.

Their effort is called "Freedom from Hunger," with 12 donation boxes at hotels and Valley Forge attractions, says the tourism and convention board president and CEO Michael Bowman.

"We will get to 1776 pounds of food this year," Bowman said.

The food will be distributed by Philabundance. Amanda White of Philabundance said, "1776 pounds can equate to 3000 meals for those in need. In Montgomery County specifically, there are about 80,000 people in need today. Any food drive, we're extremely grateful for, especially those that are bringing in high items in protein, including peanut butter, stew, and tuna."

Weckerly said, "The more boxes there are to empty, the happier we are."

The drive ends October 1. Non-perishable food can be donated at the offices of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board in King of Prussia or at these locations:

Hilton Garden Inn, Fort Washington

SpringHill Suites, Willow Grove

Hyatt House, Plymouth Meeting

Holiday Inn Express, King of Prussia

Valley Forge Casino Resort, King of Prussia

Holiday Inn, Lansdale

Sheraton Valley Forge, King of Prussia

Philadelphia Premium Outlets, Limerick

Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown

Boehm's United Church of Christ, Blue Bell

St. James Episcopal Church, Collegeville

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