It's been a hectic 24 hours at Nello's Specialty Meats in Nazareth, Northampton Co., and with deer season just beginning, it's unlikely to slow down anytime soon.
Nello's crew is busy processing the first day's haul. The prized antlers are tagged and bagged, waiting for the taxidermist, but not all of the hunters will be taking their venison home.
"There are a lot of hunters, they want to help out, and they will get an extra tag specifically for Hunters Sharing the Harvest," said Sebastian Loiacano, also known as "Nello."
Loiacano has been processing deer meat for the Hunters Sharing the Harvest Program for years.
Last year, 700 pounds of ground venison were donated to New Bethany Ministries and its food bank.
While donations depend on the status of the economy, Loiacano said, "Hopefully more people will give me deer."
Hunters can donate a portion of their venison when they process their meat or pay a $15 copay to donate it all.
"There are a lot of people in this country that are starving, and it's up to us as Americans to help them out, and I do believe that charity starts at home," said Loiacano.
More than 1,000 pounds of venison were donated in Lehigh and Northampton counties last year, said John Plowman, executive director, Hunters Sharing the Harvest. The Greater Berks and Greater Philadelphia food banks also benefit.
This year, Plowman said, the program is hoping to get more venison and cash donations.
"Whether you hunt or you don't hunt, supporting the program by donating money helps us process more meat for families in need.
It costs roughly $52 to process a deer, said Plowman, adding that two of the program's biggest sponsors, the Lehigh and Delaware chapters of the Safari Club International, foot most of the bill.
A $10 donation will provide 40 meals, with $500 proving 2,000, according to the program's website.