Seven years ago Rob Hallam’s wife, Mary, handed him a box and tossed in two cans of tuna.

From there, Hallam started an annual food drive that has brought in thousands of nonperishable goods for those in need on Long Island.

“If you believe in a calling from God, that was clearly the message to me,” Hallam said on starting the drive. 

Hallam will be delivering this year’s donated goods to a food pantry at 230 Hanse Ave. in Freeport on Saturday around 11 a.m.

Volunteers are invited to be part of the human chain that will pass the boxes from vehicles to the pantry. This year Nassau Door and Window is supplying trucks.

The Hallams are actively involved in their church, the Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne.

Every year, the church participates in the national Souper Bowl drive.

Hallam said he felt God was telling him to take the food drive efforts outside of the doors of his church.

Though he was uncomfortable at first, with a little push from his wife’s initial donation, Hallam reached out to the community.

Hallam is a sales manager at the Lynbrook Nassau Door and Window store. He said he decided to reach out to his clients to see if they would be interested in donating.

He took a box with cartoon characters, that “looked like a fourth-grade homework project,” and put it in the stores for donations, he said.

Nassau Door and Window also has locations in Williston Park and Hicksville.

For monetary donations, Hallam equates one dollar with one item.

The first year, the drive collected a total of 984 cans and dollars, he said.

“And I thought that was tremendous that we had collected almost 1,000 food items,” Hallam said. 

The drive didn’t stop there, though.

Each year it seemed to grow, Hallam said, especially with the help of social media.

Hallam said his wife, Mary, organizes the donated goods by food type.
(Photo courtesy of Rob Hallam)

Last year, the drive raised close to 15,000 items and dollars, Hallam said.

Hallam attributes the drive’s success to its simplicity and grassroots nature.

“There’s no overhead cost, no administrative cost, everybody knows that every dollar or every can of soup donated is going to the people that need it,” Hallam said.

People are excited to help, he added.

“Many people out there that want to get involved and do something good but just don’t know how to go about doing it,” Hallam said. 

Since the initial two cans of tuna from this wife, the drive has drawn in participants from across the island and beyond.

Hallam said he has even received checks from people from other parts of the state, and country – some of whom he doesn’t even know.

Hallam said a lot of people want to give but don’t necessarily trust charities and want to know where their money is going.

“What we’ve done is just provide a vehicle that everyone can see and feel and it’s going on in their own backyard,” Hallam said.

Before being donated, all the goods end up in Hallam’s living room – in piles his wife organizes based on food-type.

Hallam officially named the drive the “People’s Drive,” because that’s exactly what it is, he said.

It no longer is tied to his church or his company, but to a much larger community.

Hallam said God’s dreams “are apparently bigger than his own,” because he never expected the drive to expand to this scale.

“But he’s got his own plans … and I put my faith in him,” Hallam said.

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