More than 500 carolers gathered in downtown Georgetown for the 35th annual Caroling on The Circle event Dec. 3 to sing in the Christmas season and collected more than 24,000 canned goods and other nonperishable items for local pantries.

Each year, Caroling on The Circle kicks off the holiday season for Sussex County, while serving as a community food drive to benefit local food banks. Started in 1984 as part of the Delaware First initiative, Caroling on The Circle is continuing to help those in need a generation later. To date, the community has donated more than 725,000 food items through the Caroling on The Circle in its 35-year history.

As part of the Caroling event, Sussex County called on the public to “Pack the POD” by setting up a 14-by-7-foot storage trailer on The Circle. The unit served as a focal point for Caroling and to heighten awareness about the food drive.

The caroling event, along with collections from Sussex County Council, county employees, schools, groups and businesses leading up to the event, helped this year’s preliminary total to reach 24,556 items. The county is hoping to take the final total even higher by the new year.

The public can continue to drop off canned goods and nonperishable food items between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Sussex County Administrative Offices, 2 The Circle, or the West Complex offices, 22215 Dupont Highway, in Georgetown. The Caroling on The Circle food drive will continue until Dec. 31.

Items collected will be donated to about 15 area pantries, shelters and church organizations for distribution within Sussex County.