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He smelled something burning not long after he turned from Route 5 onto 488. In his rearview mirror, he saw the flames.

Pulling a full trailer, less than 15 minutes from his destination, Archie Verdiglione had a problem. He pulled to the shoulder of the road and managed to put out the fire pouring from one of the trailer wheels.

Dry bearings had overheated, igniting the flames. He could have waited there on the side of the road and called for help, but Archie had a trailer full of food for the hungry. He promised to deliver it and he was going to keep that promise — as close to on-time as humanly possible.

So he simply removed the tire and limped along on the shoulder of the road with the trailer on three wheels until he reached the LifeStyles office in La Plata.

“That had to be divine intervention,” Archie said. “That trailer was full that day. That was the only trouble in a lot of years. Been in some bad weather, some rain, some snow. The Lord was with us all the way.”

Archie and his gold Chevrolet Silverado made countless trips, delivering surplus food from USDA warehouses in Prince Frederick or Broome’s Island to stock local food pantries. It was a mission he began in 1997, delivering food to Calvary United Methodist Church, which he attended at the time.

He later began delivering to LifeStyles and to La Plata United Methodist Church.

The deliveries usually contained cases upon cases of canned goods, as well as the occasional collection of vegetables, frozen food or milk. He started by loading up the back of his pickup truck, but he later invested in a 12-foot flat-bed, four-wheeled trailer with a lay-down ramp.

Year after year, trip after trip, Archie always delivered. He retired in 2019 after helping feed hundreds, maybe thousands of people over the years, setting a standard that continues to inspire LifeStyles and our volunteers.

“Archie volunteered without hesitation to make sure there was food on our pantry shelves,” LifeStyles Executive Director Sandy Washington said. He provided LifeStyles and many others years of dedication.”

Picking up the food was easy enough. USDA workers with a front-end loader would place the pallets on the trailer. But upon arrival at the food pantry, each box had to be unloaded by hand and carried to its destination.

The delivery might be 200 cases of canned goods, followed by sacks of potatoes and maybe a few 100-pound bags of rice.

“They helped us put it on, but we took it off,” he said. “It was heavy lifting.”

Then he rattles off a list of his most consistent helpers — Jim Harris, Neil Johnson, Garth Bowling, John Sorenson, Jim Wills, Art Smith. Once he got to LifeStyles, Danny Merrick or James Zito often waited to help unload.

“I had some awful nice guys and willing volunteers along the way,” Archie said.

They did it all simply because it was something they could do to help those who needed food.

“Sandy Washington’s crew has fed a lot of people,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for, I think, to help other people.”

Archie retired after more than 30 years as an HVAC professional at the U.S. Government Printing Office and the National Gallery of Art. In 2019, he also retired from making his food deliveries, passing the torch to the next generation.

He has earned the rest.

He still has the Silverado and the trailer. They served him well over the years. They were the definition of reliability. Just like Archie.

“A lot of miles,” he said. “A lot of miles.”

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