Fairfield officials from both sides of the political aisle are setting aside their differences -- at least for a while -- and joining in a bipartisan appeal Saturday for the public to help others in need this holiday season.

To help accomplish that goal, town and state legislative are helping to plan -- and volunteer for -- a collection of non-perishable food and winter coats Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m., on Town Hall Green in front of old Town Hall, 611 Old Post Road.

Non-perishable canned and packaged goods, along with monetary donations, will be collected for Operation Hope, which has a local food pantry and community kitchen to combat hunger in town.

The coats are being collected for donation to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, which manges programs of hunger, homelessness and addiction in that city.

Carla Miklos, Operation Hope's executive director, said in a press release announcing the collections: "The timing couldn't be better. While so many of us are reflecting on our blessings this time of year, others among us are not as fortunate. Our food pantry has seen a drastic increase in visitors who are hungry. In fact, between September and October this year, our number of meals served jumped from 10,000 to nearly 15,000.

"Operation Hope is here to take care of our neighbors who are struggling in silence, working hard to make ends meet, and we do so in a way that helps them maintain their dignity. Donations are critical -- without them -- we can't meet the demand. We are grateful that this community recognizes that we all are at our best when everyone has access to the help they need."

Youth volunteers from Wakeman Boys & Girls Club will be assisting at Saturday's food and coat drive.

For information about Operation Hope and volunteering, check www.operationhopect.org