When word got out that county food banks were short on fresh meat, local hunters took to the woods, fields and farms to help provide venison for needy families.
According to Ben Kelkye, who sits on the Frederick Chapter of the Izaak Walton League's board of directors, a venison drive he helped organize during the last week of deer firearm season provided local shelters with almost 60 deer, which amounts to between 3,200 and 3,500 pounds.
The meat was taken to Shuff's Meat Market in Thurmont. The market participates in Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, which was founded by a Washington County resident in 1997. The program allows hunters to donate deer to participating processors, which then provide food banks with manageable cuts of venison.
Among those Kelkye contacted for help with the drive was Jim Remsburg, an Izaak Walton League member who does trophy hunting. A group with which he hunted brought in more than 35 deer, Kelkye said.
"It's a great feeling," Remsburg said.
Food banks that received the bounty are grateful for the drive and its participants.
"We got nine deer," said Phyllis Thompson, coordinator of the Middletown Food Bank for the past 12 years.
"We were just so delighted to get it. ... That's going to make a big difference," she said.
About 190 families, representing 441 people, were served by the food bank in November. While it is hard to say how far one deer can go, the supply should last a few months, Thompson said.
The Rev. Sally Joyner-Giffin of the Thurmont Food Bank said the venison is a huge help because the cost of other types of meat has increased. When the bank has hamburger, for example, each family receives only about a pound per visit.
"There's not much you can do with that," she said. "If we have the venison, we can be more generous."
Kelkye said he hopes more people will donate deer throughout the remaining hunting seasons.