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Personal trainer’s drive brings 500 pounds of food to Massena Neighborhood Center

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MASSENA — The Massena Neighborhood Center has more food to put on its shelves — about 500 pounds to be specific — thanks to the efforts of a local fitness trainer.

And, John Roder notes, it didn’t take long to start filling tote bins.

“It was a two-week process,” he said as he, Larry Fountaine and Robert Baker made the delivery to the Neighborhood Center on Friday afternoon.

Mr. Roder said he used to do similar drives at the Delmar Tavern and now, as a personal trainer, he decided to try it again to see what kind of results he could get.

“People responded well. I did almost triple what I did at the Delmar,” he said.

It took only word of mouth with his clients — and some advertising on Facebook — to get the message out, according to Mr. Roder, who said he simply explained that while they were probably going enjoy a big meal on Christmas Day, others wouldn’t be so fortunate.

“At first it was my clients and nonperishables. Then I posted on Facebook for whoever else wanted to take part. It blew up. It’s the community helping the community,” he said.

Mr. Roder said he thought he would get enough nonperishables to fill one tote. He ended up filling five big totes with food items for the Neighborhood Center. A friend, Patrick D. Villano, also donated 58 toothbrushes.

“I got a large variety,” Mr. Roder said.

He received so many food items that he had to store them in his spare bedroom until Friday, when he packed the totes onto a pickup truck and made the delivery.

That generosity from the community made him feel good, Mr. Roder said.

“It’s like walking downstairs to see a tree full of presents. It’s the same feeling,” he said.

Elaine H. Eggleston, executive director of the Massena Neighborhood Center, said it welcomed the donation. With the distribution of Christmas boxes to the needy, its shelves were starting to look empty. Now, with the help of Mr. Roder and those who contributed to his effort, it can fill them up again.

Mr. Roder said he’s not done, though.

“My next goal is to do something for Christmas in July. If I start early enough, I can hopefully get 1,000 pounds. The way this took off, I think I’d be able to do it,” he said.

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