Bill Gallant would never call himself a hero and he assiduously avoids the spotlight. But on March 3, this 65-year-old Kennebunk businessman was front and center loading a UPS Flame Truck (check it out!) with more than 10,000 pounds of food for people and pets. Then, led by a Kennebunk police escort, he helped deliver the donationsto a local food pantry and animal shelter.
This all started 10 years ago when Bill, owner of Mail-It Unlimited, learned there were bare shelves in the food pantry run by Community Outreach Service at St. Martha’s Catholic Church. Donations had dropped drastically during the waning winter months, so he decided to organize a food drive. “Stuff the Truck” is now an annual event here in the Kennebunks.
“Most food drives only happen around Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Bill says. “But actually, the need is year round.” He adds that cash or checks are “happily accepted.” This year’s cash donations exceeded $1,800.00.
Several years after initiating the food drive, Bill adopted a rescue dog he named Allie. His beloved golden retriever has never lacked for a bone to gnaw on but Bill recognized that “every community has not only people in need, but pets too.” So he added the Animal Welfare Society to his annual drive efforts.
Today, Allie divides her store duties between tail-wagging greeter AND official mascot of the people and pet food drive. She can also be spotted guarding the numerous 16-pound bags of Alpo and Iams that dominate the doggie donations.
Twenty-eight years ago, Bill and his wife Anna opened Mail-It Unlimited in a 600-square-foot space on Main Street. They survived several devastating recessions, during which they willingly tapped much of their lifetime savings to retain all their employees and to keep the business afloat. Nowadays Bill oversees a thriving 6500-square-foot store in the Shoppers Village mini-mall.
“My wife and I agreed we wouldn’t sell anything we couldn’t afford to buy ourselves,” Bill says. The gift area of the shop is amply stocked with Yankee Candles, anniversary cards, Red Sox paraphernalia, children’s books, signature coffee mugs — a browser’s bonanza!
But the heart of the shop is a pulsing UPS shipping concession. Bill says, “Of roughly 5,400 independent UPS shipping stores, we’re number four in the country, based on dollar value. And that’s why we’re lucky enough to ask for and get one of only six UPS Flame Trucks in the country to make delivery day more fun!”
Cardboard boxes and packing peanuts didn’t drive Bill’s original career aspirations. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in microbiology from the University of Maine, Orono, he worked for more than 15 years with Snow’s Food Products. Along the way, he received four patents for various ways to shuck clams. He also discovered he was both a good manager and marketer.
Opening his own business 28 years ago was a leap of faith, and one he celebrates during the two-week drive by offering a “special discount” to customers who donate. This year’s discount on all items in the store is 28% (excluding packaging and shipping services).
“Next year, when we celebrate 29 years of doing business, the discount for donations will be 29%, and the year after that, 30%,” Bill says, “and we’ll just keep on going!”
Good things like this don’t only happen in Kennebunk, Maine. They happen in countless villages across the country when a resident looks around, senses a situation, recognizes what he or she can do to help, and then does.
Stuff the Truck drive is a random act of kindness that is intrinsic to our American way of life. Thank you, Bill Gallant!
P.S. “Last year, after we had delivered all the food and the Flame Truck had left,” Bill says, “we received another 300 pounds of food over the weekend!” It’s the gift that keeps on giving.