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Washington County Agency Warms Hearts and Fills Pantries

Food Pantry Director Dorothy Stephens oversees the First Love Kids food distribution in Sandersville, Ga.

On Tuesday, four days before First Love Kids, Inc’s spring food distribution, a Howard Sheppard truck full of food from Golden Harvest Food Bank pulled up to the agency on Hines Street in Sandersville, Ga.

On Wednesday, volunteers began building boxes and lining them up on the rows of tables snaking across the agency’s floor. On Thursday, a volunteer team from the Sandersville Rotary Club and First Love Kids worked all day to fill the boxes with nonperishable food. “We come in full speed so we can rest on Friday,” said Dorothy Stephens, First Love Kids’ Food Pantry Director.

They needed that rest. On Saturday morning, more than 1100 families arrived for the distribution. Some started lining up as early as 4:30 a.m.

All day long, clients registered and lined up outside, watching as boxes were loaded onto a conveyor belt so volunteers could add final food items. After a last check at the end of the line, each client family walked away with boxes full of canned vegetables, soup, pasta, frozen fish, fresh produce, potatoes and other supplies to help put food on their table throughout the month. There was also a car line that stretched back several blocks so that clients with mobility issues could have boxes loaded directly into their trunks or backseats.

“People get really anxious and you have to tell them ‘we are not going to run out of food,’ ” said Bobby Jackson, First Love Kids’ Executive Director.

Jackson and his son, Chad, started First Love Kids in Washington County in 2000 to provide programs, academic help and spiritual guidance to local youth in need. Bobby returned to Sandersville in 2007, and First Love Kids expanded to become a food pantry partnering with Golden Harvest Food Bank in 2010. The pantry originally focused on providing nutritional support to the students in the after-school program, but Bobby could see that hunger in the area extended beyond those children.

When the agency moved into the Hines Street location in 2015, the time was right to start large-scale food distributions for local families. The Sandersville community stepped up to financially support the Saturday distributions; a local shipping company offered to help truck in the thousands of pounds of food needed, and organizations volunteered members to staff the distributions.

“When you have the funding, the transportation, the volunteers and the place, it’s a win-win for everybody,” Bobby said.

The big Saturday distributions and Wednesday pantry days make a difference for clients like Eugenia, who at nearly 90 years old has come to rely on them for more than food for her cupboards.

“It helps me get out of the house and see all my old buddies,” Eugenia said.

First Love Kids’ Saturday distributions are still growing in size, too, with clients and volunteers clearly eager for them to continue.

“It just warms your heart,” Dorothy said. “You can’t help but feel you’re doing something that is so needed, and people love you for it.”

How You Helped Hazel Battle Cancer

66-year-old Hazel of Warrenton, GA receives a grocery cart full of nutritious food for the month.

You can see Hazel’s zest for life clearly reflected in her bright smile, carefully applied makeup and colorful clothing. What’s harder to see is that the 66-year-old resident of Warrenton, GA struggles with hunger since the loss of her son and her cancer diagnosis. “When I came down with cancer my whole world changed,” Hazel remembers. “It was a big shock. At that point, I wanted to give up.”

  After a lifetime of supporting herself, arthritis and asthma made it impossible for Hazel to continue working. She used to be able to rely on her son for help. But after he passed away a few years ago times got hard, and after her cancer diagnosis they got harder.

  That’s when Hazel found help at Manna, Inc. food pantry in Thomson, GA. “Coming here for food is such a blessing because I am struggling with meals and hospital bills, and since I lost my son it’s been pretty hard on me,” she says.

  “At first I was ashamed because I am used to working and struggling to make ends meet, but I am not ashamed anymore. I feel like it’s a blessing to come here,” Hazel smiles. “I love getting grits, canned vegetables, apples and bananas…and the people here are wonderful.”

  Manna, Inc food pantry serves food to over 500 McDuffie County families in need each month. The ministry also works to meet community needs for non-food items like clothing, furniture, and diapers.

  “I feel those with the greatest needs are our seniors,” says Keryl Corley, Executive Director at Manna. “We are fortunate in that we can provide more than just food. We have furniture, appliances, clothing, toys and household items too.”

  The pantry is open Monday through Friday, 10 am – 12 pm. To volunteer, stop by the pantry or call 706-595-3138. To donate, mail your gift to Manna, PO BOX 295, Thomson, GA 30824 or visit mcduffiemanna.weebly.com. You can also visit Manna on Facebook at McDuffieManna to get involved.

FROM TRAVIS’ DESK: PUTTING OUR STRATEGIC PLAN INTO ACTION

Dear Friends,

It’s a brand new year, and a new chapter for Golden Harvest!

I shared with you in August how the Food Bank engaged in a rigorous strategic planning process last summer. Now it’s time to put that plan to work. As members of our Golden Harvest family, I wanted to share our vision for the next five years with you.

We’ll be moving forward in five strategic areas: company culture, health, community partnerships, fundraising and innovation.

Highlights of our plan include expanding our Master’s Table Soup Kitchen Garden, continuing to improve the health of the food we provide to those in need, revamping our Outreach efforts, and investing in better technology. We’ve already begun to move forward in these key areas by purchasing a plot of land to expand our Garden, bringing a new Director of Community Partnerships on board to head up our Outreach work, and updating our company-wide technologies. The next year will see many more exciting changes as we work to provide food for a better life to those who need in most in our community.

During the Strategic Planning process, we were able to revisit and re-affirm our mission, vision and values here at Golden Harvest Food Bank. Our mission, Feeding Lives Together, drives our new company-wide vision: Inspiring Healthy Change, One Meal at a Time. Our values of Faith, Service, Health, People and Community beautifully express the braiding of our past ministry, present work and aspirations for the future. To learn more, visit our mission page.

Thank you so much for your support of our efforts. We can’t wait to continue to share our plans as they unfold in exciting ways, and look forward to Feeding Lives Together with you in 2019.

God bless you,

Travis McNeal

Executive Director

How You Help Gloria With Fresh Produce

Lorraine smiles after receiving fresh produce at the Eat Smart Move More booth at the Senior Extravaganza.

“It’s easy,” Gloria says, launching into a beef, squash and zucchini scramble recipe she says is to die for. “You cut the top and bottom off and slice it long ways, then cut it in chunks and into the frying pan.”

Gloria is toting a box of yellow crookneck squash she picked up from Golden Harvest at the Eat Smart Move More booth at last September’s Senior Extravaganza in Aiken. She already received a box of zucchini but came back for another when she heard there was squash.

“I appreciate that you provide for us,” she says. “That food is making a difference in my pay check.”

Gloria retired early after developing problems with her back and hip. She later was diagnosed with diabetes. She visits two Golden Harvest partner food pantries in Aiken on a regular basis. She’s on a fixed income but determined to maintain a nutritious diet — one that involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Programs like Eat Smart Move More are eager to help local families through both better nutrition education and programming.

Made up of 10 community partners including the Aiken City Parks and Rec, Golden Harvest Food Bank, Rural Health Services and the Clemson Extension, the group focuses on “active living, healthy eating and a tobacco-free lifestyle” according to Clemson Extension representative Sarah King.

Among the programs the group already supports is Cooking Matters, a demonstration class that “takes foods like the zucchini and squash we have today and teaches people how to cook it properly and the nutrition behind that,” King said.

At the extravaganza, seniors teemed around the Eat Smart Move More booth. Everyone left with bags — or entire boxes — of fresh yellow and green squash. “Cooking fresh is important, but the cost is a little high,” said Lorraine, another senior attending the Extravaganza, as she loaded up her bag. “I appreciate getting some fresh vegetables here today.”

Columbia County Pantry Gets Game-Changing Makeover

Food Lion Feeds volunteers helped distribute food at Christway Christian Church food pantry in Columbia County, GA., after the pantry received a makeover grant and 1,500-pound food donation from Food Lion.

When Evelyn steps into Christ Central food pantry, her face splits into a wide smile as Food Pantry Director Christy Brown greets her by name and folds her into a hug.

“This has really helped us a lot. They help with diapers, food…it helps us get by,” she says. Evelyn lives with her husband, son, and two grandchildren aged 2 and 4. Her husband suffered a heart attack a few years ago and is now unable to work.

As Evelyn moves through the line, volunteers from Food Lion help her to select a box of food and fill a bag with fresh produce.

“It’s so nice to get the produce. Sometimes it lasts us through the whole month,” Evelyn explains.

Christ Central food pantry began serving the hungry in Columbia County in 2000 when Christy’s passion to help others spurred her to start this ministry. “We see so many who need it; the elderly, single moms with kids, people who are out of work, have physical problems…I don’t want to see anyone go hungry,” Brown says.

And the need is evident – Brown says that some people even walk to get to the food pantry, many with canes or walkers. She says that the main emotion that people who come for help display experience is embarrassment. “Some come in in tears because they don’t want to ask for help. We tell them, you are not alone- so many at this church have benefitted from food pantry items. We get to know their needs, take an interest in their life. It lessens the shame,” Brown says.

What began as a small operation run out of one tiny room has turned into a full-scale food pantry that serves about 130 Columbia County Residents each month with the help of over 25 volunteers.

And thanks to Food Lion, this food pantry recently became bigger and better than ever before. Christ Central was selected for the Great Pantry Makeover and received x. it will help in x ways. Food Lion Volutneers also helped distribute food at CC…

Food Lion Retail CSRA Specialist Craig Smith says that it is a humbling and rewarding experience to be able to help others in times of need.

“I’ve never had to make a choice between rent and food, but these folds make it every day. It’s great that Flood Lion and Golden Harvest can provide this food to help,” Smith says.

The Christway Christian Church food pantry is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. To volunteer, donate or learn more visit christwaychristian.com or or contact Christy Brown at c4christian@comcast.net.

You Give New Hope To Sally and Her Grandchildren

Barry Jenkins, Sally, Janiqua, Nancy Cain, and Daimon share a smile as the family receives food assistance after volunteering at the Sardis Baptist Church Food Pantry.

Sally jokes happily with a fellow volunteer as she deftly packs a box of food at Sardis Baptist Church Food Pantry. From her sunny demeanor, you would never guess what her family has been through, or that they will be receiving a food assistance themselves at the end of the day.

“This place got us through the hard time, and gave me new hope and new joy,” Sally says. Sally, age 67, is raising her 3 grandchildren after her daughter passed away when the children were small. Just 3 years ago Sally’s husband passed away as well, leaving the family without a source of income.

Then Nancy Cain, the Food Pantry Director at Sardis Baptist Food Pantry, reached out to Sally. “Nancy came to my house and got me and brought me here to the food pantry, she brought me out of myself,” remembers Sally. After receiving help at the food pantry and witnessing the community of caring there, Sally began to volunteer each week helping to pack food after.

“I love it here – it gives me joy to be able to help,” Sally says. “When I think about how blessed I am, seeing the people that love me, I’m so happy.”

Sally prepares boxes of food for local families in need in Sardis, GA.

Pretty soon, Sally’s two older grandchildren – Janiqua (18) and Daimon (16) – began volunteering every week along with her. In addition to receiving food assistance, the family found support and joy in helping others.

“This food helps us a whole lot,” says Sally. “We get chicken, potatoes, onions, so many good things – I can’t wait to make us a meal when I get the food home.”

Now, with enough nutritious food, Janiqua is excelling in school and applying to attend college in the fall. She was even able to use her volunteer experience at the food pantry as a work-based learning program to help with her college application.

“About half of the people who volunteer are previous clients or current ones,” says Cain; “At least half are families with children, and about two thirds are senior citizens.” The food pantry serves about 300 families each month and works to include healthy foods like meat, dairy, produce.

Barry Jenkins, a retired RN, explains the food pantry’s mission: “This is God’s work – we want to meet the spiritual needs of the people in this community as well as their bodily needs,” he says. “Sharing the gospel and offering prayers for those who need it is a part of our ministry as well.”

Cain agrees; “When you show people that you care about them, you can really start to make a difference in their life.”

Sardis Baptist Church is only one of the great organizations that powers the food pantry with financial and volunteer support. Sardis Methodist Church, Ellis Chapel Methodist Church, Jubilee Christian Worship Center, and Southern Bank all work together to serve the hungry at this wonderful pantry.

Volunteers and financial support are always needed, and financial donations are greatly appreciated – to help out at Sardis Baptist Food Pantry and for information on how to donate, call Barry Jenkins at 706-200-8107!

Meet the organizations behind the Sardis Food Pantry:

 

Sardis Methodist Church & Ellis Chapel Methodist Church

1120 Girard Avenue

Sardis, GA 30456

Contact: Rev. Janet Odegaard

 

Jubilee Christian Worship Center

11401 Highway 23 South

Girard, GA 30426

Contact: Rev. Albert White

 

Southern Bank

731 Charles Perry Ave

Sardis, GA 30456

How You Change Lives In Upstate South Carolina

Johnny Corn, founder of Gleaning House Ministries, loads a cart with food for a community member in need.

It was a typical Tuesday morning in Pickens, S.C., so Johnny Corn shouldered a box to help a young mother at Gleaning House Ministries carry donated cereal, vegetables, bread, meat and other food items to her car.

He placed the box in the backseat and saw a small hand reach up to snatch an orange from the top of the box. It was the woman’s young son, who couldn’t wait to sink his teeth into the ripe fruit.

“I could tell that her son he hadn’t eaten yet that day,” Johnny recalls.

Johnny and Esther Corn started Gleaning House Ministries almost 18 years ago, when their calling to start a food ministry found solid footing thanks to a local church’s generosity.

With the loan of a van to transport food and space to distribute, “We served 40 families that first month,” Johnny says.

The distribution has grown significantly over the years; it now provides food to about 300 families each week. The families reflect the need in a county where 1 in 5 people often go hungry. Gleaning House sees everything from single people in need to large households with 8-10 people to feed to multigenerational homes where seniors are caring for grandchildren.

Fresh greens and shelf-stable food items await distribution to families in need.

“We collected and redistributed over 800,000 pounds of food last year,” Johnny says.

And the ministry has a lot of volunteers – and community support – ready and willing to do everything they can to ensure no one leaves the food pantry on C David Stone Road empty handed.

There’s the man living out of his car who came once and insisted he couldn’t come back unless the Corns let him volunteer. Soon he was helping haul retail food pickups.

There’s the much-needed electric pallet jack that just appeared behind a stack of bread racks with the sign ‘use this with love’ right when they really needed it.

There’s the team of volunteers who show up throughout the week to help prep boxes of nonperishable food items by family size so that they’re ready to go every Tuesday.

“It changes their lives,” Johnny says. “They’re excited about being here.”

You Provide Rural Children With Weekend Food

(l-r) John Bacino and Ed Potter of the American Legion share a smile with teacher Angela Rhea and Principal Pamela Ward of Blythe Elementary. The Legion sponsors six students in the school’s BackPack Program.

Brightly colored posters and crayon drawings dot the walls inside Blythe Elementary Principal Pamela Ward’s cozy office. Her voice fills with emotion as she tells stories of the families that struggle with hunger in their rural community of Blythe, GA.

“In so many of these families, both parents are working but the money can’t stretch to feed everyone,” says Principal Ward.

Principal Ward and her staff first realized just how great the need was when Angela Rhea, a teacher, noticed several students who wanted to go through the line again at breakfast on Monday morning. It was clear that they were hungry, and Rhea realized these children were getting little to eat at home on the weekends.

She reached out to Golden Harvest Food Bank for help, and soon afterwards the school started providing BackPack weekend meal packs to children whose parents were struggling.

Now, children like 9-year-old Jason and 7-year-old Sandrareceive a bag of weekend food to get them through the weekend. The two are siblings whose family began to struggle with huger when their house was made unlivable by damage from Hurricane Matthew. stretching their financial resources to breaking point. With their financial resources stretched to breaking point, they had to move in with a family member while their father found work out of state.

Each time they receive their BackPack meal pack, Sandra and Jason’s eyes light up. “I get lots of hugs when I call them in Friday for the food,” says Rhea, who now serves as the Backpack Coordinator at Blythe Elementary.

“All the kids are very thankful that they get this weekend food,” Rhea says; “We can’t be with our students on the weekend, but at least this way they have more choices– something to eat.”

A few local organizations like the American Legion help to support the BackPack Program at Blythe Elementary, but there are still many children need of food assistance. “Every dollar matters – we use it, we need it to feed these students,” says Ward.

You Give Dessie Home-Delivered Groceries

(l-r) Dessie & Louisville Food Pantry Director Blanche Greene smile togther on Dessie’s porch.

84-year- old Dessie smiles warmly from her screened-in porch as she holds open the door. Her small, neat home is filled with pictures of her son and grandchildren. Since her husband – pastor at the local Baptist Church – passed away 11 years ago, Dessie has struggled to make ends meet on her meager income.

Because of your support, Dessie found help at the Louisville Food Pantry in Louisville, GA—one of the partner agencies Golden Harvest supplies with food. Now, Dessie receives a monthly box of nutritious groceries to get her through the end of each month. “This food is a blessing for me. Sometimes, I used to have to make leftovers stretch for 2 or 3 days,” she says.

Blanche Greene, Director at Louisville Food Pantry, knows the importance of healthy nutrition for seniors like Dessie. The shelves are lined with wholesome items like low-sodium canned vegetables and tuna. Her church, Shekinah Baptist Assembly, maintains a garden to grow produce for the food pantry, and Blanche and other community members also donate produce from their gardens. “The people we serve love to get fresh squash and sweet potatoes from our garden,” she says.

But after years of making the 20 minute drive to the food pantry, Dessie’s legs became increasingly bad. “It’s hard. I can’t stand for long, and now I can hardly drive,” she explains. One day, she pulled Blanche aside and her eyes filled with tears as she explained that she would no longer be visiting the food pantry because she could not make the drive.

That’s when Blanche began her home delivery route, bringing boxed groceries directly to those in need. “When I saw her face, I knew I had to find a way to help,” Blanche remembers. Since she began delivering food to Dessie, added 20 other elderly and disabled neighbors to her route.

You can help! If you’d like to volunteer or support the Louisville Food Pantry, contact Blanche at blncgree@aol.com or 973-951- 7827. If you need food assistance, visit the food pantry Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 10:30 am or call their office at 478-625- 0890.

You Help Stock Food Pantry with Fresh Produce

(l-r) Kattie, Jim, and Dacra Herring prepare for opening time at the Augusta First Seventh Day Adventist food pantry.

Hundreds of pounds of produce line tables inside the Augusta First Seventh Day Adventist Church food pantry in Martinez, GA. A crowd of guests gathers outside as Jim Herring, church Community Service Director, prepares for opening with the help of his wife Dacra and daughter Kattie.

Jim and his family have helped operate the food pantry for 10 years. After 3 years of family mission work in Nicaragua, the Herrings wanted to continue giving back. They got involved with the food pantry operated by their congregation at Augusta First SDA Church and loved it. “What I love most about this work is getting to know the people we serve,” says Dacra; “So many of them come for the food and stay to fellowship.”

The abundance of fresh produce is not the only way this food pantry works towards health and wellbeing for the 30-40 families served each week. Augusta First SDA Church also offers cooking classes for clients twice a month, as well as free health screenings.

Darlene, a 70-year- old great-grandmother of 2, smiles as she moves forward to receive a box full of pantry staples and fresh fruits and vegetables. “I’m on a fixed income and my husband and I help to support our great-grandkids. Without this food pantry, there would not be much food in the house. We are so thankful.”

Darlene has also benefitted from the food pantry’s cooking classes. “They do research on fruits and vegetables that we don’t know about and tell us how we can cook them,” she explains.

“We want our clients to get the food they want and need, to get a choice of different vegetables and fruits,” says Jim; “We believe in eating good food, so we want to provide that to the people we serve.”

Michael, another senior guests at the food pantry, loves receiving the abundance of fresh foods. “More fruits and vegetables are what makes us go at my age,” he says; “I have never met a group of people that care and give so much as these food pantry folks.”

If you’d like to help this great effort, contact Jim at jimfromnic@yahoo.com. If you need food assistance, the food pantry is open every Wednesday from 4 – 7 pm!