Susie Buchmyer had heard enough. The stories of how the ongoing recession was hurting people moved her so much, she knew she had to act.

“One day I thought, ‘Omigosh, I just feel terrible. I have to do something,’” says the co-owner of Buchmyer’s Pools in York, Pa. “That morning, I came in to work and the staff knew by the look on my face that something was up. I told them [how I felt], and they said, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I just want to give back.’”

So Buchmyer and her crew came up with a way to make it happen. They would approach local farms, orchards and grocery stores for food donations, and distribute whatever was given to needy people and families in the area.

“We threw it together really fast because produce was involved, and Labor Day and pool closings were coming up,” Buchmyer notes. Her staff, family and friends sprang into action, hitting the phones, sending emails and visiting suppliers in person. Store customers were also encouraged to contribute money or bring in nonperishable items.What they accomplished in just a few weeks was impressive to say the least.

“We got a ton of food,” Buchmyer says. “Peaches, pears, green beans, corn, orange and yellow peppers, zucchini. One farmer gave us 20 bushels of apples. We got 170 watermelons.”

Fifteen stores donated gift cards in amounts of $10 to $25, which the company used to purchase food that they then assembled into individual meal bags (such as spaghetti and sauce, or cereal and juice); snack bags (chips, popcorn, pretzels); and kiddie bags (Tastykakes and pouch drinks).

Before they knew it, Aug. 28 had arrived and it was time to distribute the goods.

“[Our business is] at a busy intersection and we knew it could be a parking problem, so we set up the food distribution like a drive-through,” Buchmyer says. Huge tables were placed in the store parking lot, and the food bags were positioned for quick dispersal.

Buchmyer’s nephew stood out at the road with a sign reading “Food for the needy,” and additional helpers, including her daughter, three grandchildren and employees busily handed out bags.

Approximately 150 cars pulled up, some with more than one family inside. A few folks arrived on foot.

“It was a mixture of people,” Buchmyer says. “There were seniors on fixed incomes, a lady… living out of her van, and a man with a wife and three children who had just lost his job after 27 years.”

Will Buchmyer do a food drive next year? “Yes! I’m so in awe of how everything worked out,” she says. “It’s about pulling together, neighbors helping neighbors. With a little more time to plan, it can be even bigger and better.”

She’s happy to report two local charities — York Rescue Mission and York’s Helping Hands for the Homeless — also received food, supplies and money collected by the Buchmyer crew.“My only wish is that all the farmers and businesses could’ve been there to see [the food distribution],” Buchmyer says. “People got out of their cars to give us hugs, and one woman said, ‘You’re my angels.’”