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Updated Monthly: Everything you need to know about volunteering at Golden Harvest

It’s no secret that we LOVE our volunteers. One of the best things about working at the Food Bank is getting to know the fantastic people who come through our doors to help. You inspire us with your passion, your generosity, and your energy! Whether you already volunteer with the food bank or are looking to get involved, here’s where you can find the most up-to-date and comprehensive info about our current opportunities – CLICK HERE FOR OUR VOLUNTEER PACKET!

This volunteer packet is updated regularly and contains detailed info about how to register to volunteer, volunteer orientation and work schedules, special current volunteer needs, and volunteer rules and regulations. As always, feel free to contact our Volunteer Coordinator with any questions or just to say hi. We hope to see you soon!

Blessing Master’s Table Guests with More than Food

(r-l) Vanessa Carter and her sister serve hungry guests at The Master’s Table Soup Kitchen. Together, they direct the Vanessa Giveback Foundation.

(r-l) Vanessa Carter and her sister serve hungry guests at The Master’s Table Soup Kitchen. Together, they direct the Vanessa Giveback Foundation.

Vanessa Carter is one of the most life-filled people you will ever meet, from her colorful scarves to her dazzling smile. You’d never guess that she has been battling stage four cancer for years. And that’s only part of what makes her story so inspiring.

  As she lovingly arranges bags full of snacks, hygiene items, and socks on a table in the courtyard of the Master’s Table Soup Kitchen for soup kitchen guests, Vanessa explains how she first began serving the needy 10 years ago. She encountered a homeless couple outside a local store, and after giving them $10 was struck by their gratitude when the wife gave her a hug. “I was changed,” she says; “And then they told me there were 13 people in need living together with them on the streets. I knew I had to help.”

  Vanessa started to rally friends and family to donate food, clothing, and personal care items for this group if individuals in need. Soon, her grassroots movement had grown as more and more people caught her passion and lives were changed. She started her own charity, appropriately called the Vanessa GIveback Foundation. The Foundation provides food, clothing and other services to the homeless individuals, elderly people and children living in poverty.

  But despite her growing base of support, helping others has stayed deeply personal for Vanesa. The wife of a retired military veteran, she often uses her own financial resources to fill in the gaps when there isn’t enough for those she serves. “Do what you can for people, and you will be OK,” is her motto; “something will always come through, and you won’t want for anything.” She once even gave the shoes off her feet to a teenage girl who was wearing flip-flops in winter.

  In the face of many roadblocks over the past 10 years, including a difficult battle with breast cancer, Vanessa finds joy and fulfillment in her mission to make the world a better place. “I’m more than ok – I’m happy!” she says, and you can tell she absolutely means it.

  Watching her interact with our guests at the Master’s Table just tells you how heartfelt her work truly is. She offers hugs to everyone she serves, along with carefully prepared bags of necessities. “The hugs mean as much as the food,” she explains; “People are always touched by kindness.”

  Be sure to check out Vanessa’s Giveback Foundation on Facebook!

Planting Seeds of Hope at our Soup Kitchen

Elanco_webAll of you in our wonderful community did so much to raise funds for our beautiful Master’s Table Soup Kitchen…but you may not realize that tucked away behind the new facility is a veggie oasis! Every year, the Master’s Table Garden yields hundreds of pounds of vegetables to feed our Soup Kitchen guests.

  This oasis wouldn’t be nearly as lush without the untiring efforts of Grant Summers and his fellow volunteers from Elanco Augusta Technology Center. Every year, this team gathers garden supply donations from local businesses and revamps the Master’s Table Garden by weeding, laying out the garden, and planting new plants.

  But Grant, a knowledgeable gardener, shows a special passion for making the garden grow that would inspire you. He returns again and again each summer to tend the raised beds, fueled by a deep awareness of how many of our neighbors find themselves suddenly struggling and hungry. “At any given time, anybody can find themselves in the tough situation of the people who are served at the Master’s Table,” he explains. “I feel blessed that I can make a difference to those people.”

  All you have to see are the excited smiles of soup kitchen guests as they receive mouthwatering fresh tomato salad or zucchini to see the amazing impact that volunteers like Grant are making. “Grant’s passion for feeding the hungry goes far beyond planting the garden,” says Rick Stevens, Manager at the Master’s Table. “His dedication and heart plant a seed that brings joy to our guests who appreciate this fresh produce!”

&nbsp Ryan Robinson of Elanco’s Human Resources Department agrees; “The partnership Elanco has had with Golden Harvest has been very rewarding. It is employees like Grant, who have a passion for and commitment to this kind of service, that make these efforts successful.”

VOLUNTEER T-SHIRTS

harvest 1harvest 2    

Tshirt proceedsThey’re here!! The long awaited Golden Harvest Volunteer T-shirts have arrived and they are AWESOME. And just $10! Each shirt purchased gives back to our mission of feeding lives together by providing 20 meals to the hungry.

Choose between 2 fab designs – Click here to purchase!

To pick up your shirt:

*Please save and print your receipt, or bring in an email receipt on your smartphone as proof of purchase.

*Present your printed or email receipt at one of our offices and get your shirt!

Augusta Warehouse: 3310 Commerce Drive, Augusta, GA 30909

Aiken Warehouse: 81 Capital Drive, Aiken, SC 29803

*You can pick up your T-shirt anytime between 8:00-5:00 pm Monday through Friday.

Volunteer T-Shirts

harvest 1harvest 2    

Tshirt proceedsThey’re here!! The long awaited Golden Harvest Volunteer T-shirts have arrived and they are AWESOME. And just $10! Each shirt purchased gives back to our mission of feeding lives together by providing 20 meals to the hungry.

Choose between 2 fab designs – Click here to purchase!

To pick up your shirt:

*Please save and print your receipt, or bring in an email receipt on your smartphone as proof of purchase.

*Present your printed or email receipt at one of our offices and get your shirt!

Augusta Warehouse: 3310 Commerce Drive, Augusta, GA 30909

Aiken Warehouse: 81 Capital Drive, Aiken, SC 29803

*You can pick up your T-shirt anytime between 8:00-5:00 pm Monday through Friday.

10 Best Foods to Donate to the Food Bank This Summer

Top items to donate

As summertime approaches, your donations to the food bank mean more to local families facing hunger than ever. Food donations decline dramatically during the busy summer months- but you can help!

Whether you are looking for a fun summer project for the kids or a simple way to make a difference this summer, shopping for and donating much-needed food items is fun, easy and educational. Here’s a “Hunger Hero Shopping List” filled with items that will provide convenient and healthy nutrition to families in need:

1. Canned fish and meats. Canned salmon, tuna, and chicken are high in protein and are basic building block for nutritious meals…think chicken salad, tuna with pasta and peas, etc.

2. Peanut butter/ nut butters. These are great sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They are also convenient to use for sandwiches-making or snacking, making them a great option for the hardworking families we serve.

3. Healthy packaged soups. Look for low-sodium, natural brands of canned soup or stew. A few cans of stew make a healthy, complete meal for families with limited resources.

4. Whole- or multi-grain breakfast cereals. You can help kids in need start their day right by donating tasty but healthy cereals- oatmeal is a great option too! Nutrient-rich whole grains provide fiber and keep little tummies full.

5. Canned or dried beans. These are another great source of protein and fiber, and can be used in a wide variety of ways.

6. Pasta sauce. Marinara sauce can be combined with a package of dry pasta or canned meat & veggies for a quick, healthy meal.

7. Shelf-stable milk. Powdered milk (dry), boxed milk, or even canned evaporated skim milk provide much-needed calcium and protein and replace other less-healthy beverage choices.

8. Whole-grain pasta. Pasta is a versatile family favorite that stretches to feed a lot of bellies- and the whole-grain variety packs a great nutritional punch!

9. Rice and other grains. Quinoa, barley, wild or brown rice, and other nutrient-rich grains provide fiber, protein and important vitamins. They’re also easy to cook alongside beans for a satisfying, balanced meal.

10. Canned vegetables. Though they don’t taste exactly like fresh, canned veggies are an important source of nutrition when fresh veggies and fruits are not available. Look for low-sodium vegetables and low-sugar fruits.

As a rule of thumb, think about what you would like to eat or serve your own family and you can’t go wrong. Or if you want to make a difference right now, donate here to provide nutritious food to families in need this summer. Every dollar you donate provides $9 worth of food to a family just like yours!

Soup Kitchen a Bridge to a Better Future

Golden Harvest client and volunteer Julissa prepares turkey for The Master’s Table Thanksgiving celebration

Golden Harvest client and volunteer Julissa sums up her sense about life in one simple phrase. “When it comes to people, there’s more than meets the eye,” she says; “That’s why you’ve got to help. You never know what someone is going through.”

This is certainly true of Julissa, or Juju for short, who moved to the Augusta area to escape domestic violence. Originally from New York, she met and married a member of the armed forces and was blessed with 4 children who are now grown.

Then when her husband returned home from the Gulf War with a severe case of PTSD, things got bad. “He wasn’t the same after that,” she explained. Juju took refuge in this area, where she has family ties.

A Tough Decision

“It’s easy to jump to the other side of the fence, from the good life to being poor, and that’s my story,” Julissa explains. “When I left my old life behind, I had to get an education so I can support myself. But in the meantime there are bills to pay.” Julissa is currently studying in an RN degree program, with only a little over a year left.

For her, the Master’s Table Soup Kitchen is the bridge between life now and the life she is building. Because she is a Pell grant recipient, Julissa is not eligible for government food assistance. So she visits the Master’s Table to help fill in the financial gaps.  “I had to make a choice,” she said; “If I wanted an education, it would be tough to make ends meet. But I made that decision.”

Giving Something Back

After visiting the Master’s Table for two years as a guest, she decided to become a regular volunteer there in her spare time as well. “I volunteer because the soup kitchen was here for me when no one else was,” she said; “And I want to give something back- for me, it’s the right thing to do.”

Juju’s dream is to work as a surgical nurse in an emergency room setting. “I’m a people person,” she laughs; “and I like the idea of helping people, helping save lives.” In the meantime, she is enjoying school and the camaraderie of working with soup kitchen volunteers and staff.

“I thank God for the donors and employees that make this place happen,” she said; “I can’t thank you enough for helping me.”

Food Pantry Director Finds Support During Battle With Cancer

Christy, pictured fourth from left, and the volunteers at DCCM serve 375 families each week, thanks to the support of 16 local churches and Golden Harvest Food Bank.

When Christy Cunningham took the job as Food Pantry Director at the Downtown Cooperative Church Ministry, a Golden Harvest partner agency, she wanted to give back. She never expected to receive so much in return.

Welcome Support

“As a breast cancer survivor, I just wanted to give back after what I’ve been through,” Christy explains. The road has not been easy; during her 2 years at DCCM she has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment and other “hard things.” But throughout her struggle, she has found support from those she works with—and those she serves.

“My clients call me ‘boss lady,’” Christy chuckles, “But they are so concerned for me. It’s like a big family here, everybody takes care of everybody.” She says working at the food pantry has provided an essential support system for her over the past few years.

Inspired by Gratitude

DCCM’s volunteer staff provides emergency food to 375 families every week through the support of 16 area churches, which collaborate to provide funding and volunteers. They partner with Golden Harvest to receive food and also participate in Golden Harvest’s Retail Rescue program which enables them to collect donated food from local grocery stores.

Their mission is to help people like Elizabeth, a senior citizen living with her daughter. “I don’t want to be a burden on my daughter,” Elizabeth explains, “So I found help here.” Elizabeth lights up at the mention of Christy. “She is a wonderful person!” she exclaims; “I’m so grateful for the way she takes care of us.”

Christy echoes this sentiment; “The people who come in here are so grateful! A little help means so much to them, even if it’s just an encouraging word.” She remembers one recent encounter with a woman who moved to the area for a job and was laid off shortly after. Alone in a strange city with a house full of children, she quickly began to feel desperate.

When she visited DCCM, her eyes filled with tears of relief as Christy placed a box of food in her hands. “I didn’t think help was really going to happen,” she explained; “And I didn’t know how I was going to feed my kids tonight.”

Words of Encouragement

Another recent encounter struck close to Christy’s heart. A woman who visited the pantry timidly revealed that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer, but was unable to afford treatment. Christy led her to the St. Vincent de Paul Medical Clinic where she began receiving medical attention. The woman expressed grateful amazement, telling Christy, “I thought nobody wanted to help me; I thought I was alone.”

In the end, for Christy, the food pantry is all about community members encouraging one another during difficult times. “Some times just an encouraging word to a downtrodden individual makes all the difference in the world,” she says, “And it’s as true for me as it is for an individual in need of food!”

For more information about DCCM or to volunteer, visit www.dccmaugusta.org or call (706) 722-3530.

From Travis’ Desk: Feeding Lives and Hearts in 2015

One of the hallmarks of our life in the United States of America is how we pull together during times of crisis. I have seen it time and time again. We rush to aid victims of natural disaster, like the recent flooding experienced by our South Carolina neighbors. We offer comfort in times of heartbreak, as we did for the Charleston community this past June.

The Power of Pulling Together

This spirit of communal caring is part of our heritage, a defining characteristic of who we are as a nation. I think our work at Golden Harvest flows out of that same spirit. Hunger is a crisis. And we—you—are moved to pull together and help our neighbors in crisis by Feeding Lives Together!

As we embark on this New Year, I invite you to reflect with me on the thousands of lives we touched this year. My heart overflows with joy as I think of the 431,000 families we served together.

As I look back, I also see the thousands of people who gave of their time to serve meals at The Master’s Table Soup Kitchen and sort food at the Faith Food Factory. I see generous donors from all corners of our service area who sent their best gifts to provide food for those struggling around them.

With such band of caring friends rushing to their aid, our seniors, children, and families who struggle with hunger have a source of hope and strength. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you for helping to lift these neighbors out of crisis and into hope.

Strength for the Future

This joy and gratitude is what gives me strength to face the challenges that 2016 brings, no matter how daunting.

This year, we had no choice but to drop one-third of the seniors served by our Senior Food Box Program because funding was not available. Also, as we continue to receive less and less food from government and retail sources, we must continue purchasing food to feed those who depend on us for help. Please pray for our staff as we work to bring hungry seniors back on board and fund the growing Purchased Food Program.

I will also keep you in prayer as you begin this New Year. May it be filled with joy and gratitude for the wonderful community we share, as well as strength for the challenges and promises of a new chapter of life!

God Bless You,

Travis Signature

Once Fed, Now Feeding Others

Melissa Williams traces her passion for feeding the hungry back to a childhood stabilized by help from a local food pantry.

Melissa Williams traces her passion for feeding the hungry back to a childhood stabilized by help from a local food pantry.

During the year her family was fed by a food pantry, Melissa Williams never knew they were in the midst of a crisis. When her father’s business failed the family was forced to live on her mother’s income. At the same time, a family friend and her 2 children found refuge from a bad situation in Melissa’s home.

“My parents stepped out in faith to help out their friend,” said Melissa, “and suddenly we were a household of 6! Without the food pantry, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Originally from New York, Melissa has moved a lot during her 9 years in the Air Force. But she first discovered a passion for feeding the hungry at The Master’s Table Soup Kitchen when the Air Force held a Day of Service on Thanksgiving Day. The experience was so powerful that when she began working nights, she dedicated her mornings to serving at the soup kitchen every day for 2 weeks.

Her work there brought back many childhood memories. “We used to have pancakes on Sunday morning, and then the pancakes went away when the new family moved in,” she remembers; “But I had no idea we were so close to the edge. The food pantry gave us room to breathe until things got better.”

Looking back, Melissa is grateful to her parents, the pantry, and her community for giving her a sense of security during that year of hardship. “I never knew we were poor,” she chuckled; “I had that stability in my childhood. Fear can destroy a child, but I didn’t have to deal with that because people in my community gave back.”

Nowadays, Melissa gives back to other families in need by volunteering her time at Golden Harvest Food Bank. In addition to serving at the Master’s Table, she has also worked sorting food at the Faith Food Factory and helping with administrative work. “Every time I leave, my face hurts because I smile so much. From the people working with me to the people I serve, it’s so uplifting” she says; “It’s only 2 hours of my day, but it colors the rest of my day.”

A big shout out to all of our awesome volunteers like Melissa –you help color this community a brighter shade of happy every day!