As mayor of Galloway Township, Don Purdy has to make big decisions every day, but for an hour on Sept. 19, the toughest call he had to make was whether to double-bag the milk.

The mayor was one of a few township and county officials who donated their time to the ShopRite of Galloway that morning to participate in the chain's annual Help Bag Hunger event.

Purdy, who also attended last year, reminisced about his poor rookie performance.

"When I got here, it was overwhelming," Purdy said. "I'd never bagged groceries in my life, but here, it's a good event, it helps out the community and it's for a good cause."

The bagging day is the flagship event of ShopRite's Partners in Caring initiative, for which participating ShopRite locations hold fundraisers and collect donations each September to benefit a network of food banks, which includes the Community FoodBank of New Jersey-Southern Branch.

Other officials who attended the event included Rob Geist from the office of U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles and sheriff's Sgt. Jose Jusino.

Sandy Jusino, Jose's wife, organized the store's efforts. While she admits she found herself in over her head last year, the fundraiser was still a success, bringing in more than $10,000, which put its haul among the top in the region.

With a year of experience under her belt, Jusino put the 2012 campaign in a good place to outdo last year: The store's donations are about what they were at the same point last year, and with more fundraisers still to go, it should exceed that mark.

"It's been going great, it's amazing how many people week after week still donate that one dollar," Jusino said.

Last year, ShopRite of Galloway, along with ShopRite of English Creek in Egg Harbor Township, was one of two stores in the area to bring in more than $10,000 for the cause. This year, ShopRite of Absecon hopes to join that elite group - and so far it looks like the store will succeed.

Absecon Police Chief David Risley and a few of his officers attended the two-hour event at the Absecon ShopRite, during which the store bolstered its total by more than $100.

Front-end manager Nick Mongono said the store had raised about $8,000 by Help Bag Hunger day - nearly double its haul at the same point last year. With the fundraiser set to last through the month, the store was on pace to meet its five-figure goal.

Daily hot dog sales, a beef and beer, and a team of dedicated staffers such as 40-year veteran Barbara Carramma, Help Desk staffer Alice Heck and store manager Brad MacDonald have boosted the Absecon ShopRite's success.

"Our success is really based on a team effort," Mongono said. "We've all done our parts, and the cashiers on the front lines have really been pulling their weight."

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