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Food pantry hurting but
still feeding the hungry

 

By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  On any given day the front lobby and waiting room at Helping in His Name Food Pantry in Stockbridge is standing room only, with people overflowing out the doors. Old and young alike, people of all colors and races and genders patiently fill out forms, sit through interviews and ask for help in putting food on the table.

Mrs. Marcia Barker's second grade class at Unity Grove Elementary School collected the most canned goods the week before Thanksgiving. The school was one of several that participated in a food drive to benefit Helping in His Name Food Pantry.                                          Photo by Melissa Robinson

  But just a few short weeks ago, the shelves in the warehouse of Helping in His Name Food Pantry were looking pretty bare. It’s been a difficult past few months for Henry County’s food pantry that helps an average of 1,100 families every month. So bad in fact, that President Nola Love had to personally assess her list of clients and cut several families from the rolls.

  “Believe me there were a lot of tears being shed. It’s a very difficult decision to cut a family from receiving aid,” said Love. “Earlier this month, I had to dismiss 20 families because they can get by with food stamps.”

  Love, who has been at the helm of the non-profit organization for the past four years said this is the worst she has seen it. She said in addition to people worrying about where their next meal is coming from, Henry County is seeing an increase in its homeless population.

  She said the dire situation the pantry found itself in was combination of several factors, led by the current economy. She said so many people have lost jobs and employment opportunities are scarce, leading not only to hunger and food insecurity, but in some instances, homelessness.

  According to Love, many families are just a paycheck or two away from eviction and although Henry County is known for being a somewhat affluent community, homelessness is pervasive in many areas, although the idea often makes people uncomfortable.

  In addition to the struggling economy, she said the pantry was unable to buy as much food from the Atlanta Food Bank as there were several changes taking place there as well.

  “Our clientele jumped from 1,100 to 1,264 in October because of the economy,” said Love.

  In fact, according to a report Love received from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute just a few weeks ago, Georgia is the fifth poorest state in the nation, with one in five adults and one out of every four children living in poverty.

  However a recent food drive from several Henry County public and private schools, as well as community organizations, will help the pantry assist families with food through the first of the year. Twelve area schools held canned food drives and volunteers fanned out the week before Thanksgiving to pick up the donations.

  “The school food drives just give us such a big boost, and that helps us continue to feed hungry families until after the holidays. Every can of food, every donation counts,” said Love.

  She said in addition to food donations, monetary donations are just as important, as the pantry can purchase food from the Atlanta Food Bank for just 16 cents per pound.

  When times get tough, Love takes action, getting on the phone and calling on people and organizations to help. She said a recent donation of six pallets of food from a local Publix store has been a Godsend, as well as a food drive held by United Bank. She also notes that Kerry Strill, a manager with Southeastern Trucking Company, has been a generous supporter.

  “Kerry has 300 employees and when we put out the call for help, they really rally for us,” said Love.    

  “They also gave the pantry a trailer to store food.”

  She said people often remember the Food Pantry and Henry County’s hungry population during the holidays, but she said but that needs are great throughout the year, particularly in the spring.

  Love said although we’re in trying times, she credits her staff and volunteers with helping those most vulnerable in the community. She also puts a heavy reliance on her faith to see her through the dark days, those days where she has to cut families off, or can’t find an evicted single mother a place for her and her children.

  “I have a heart for loving people who are hurting, and my love for God and his people are what keeps me going,” said Love.

  Those wishing to donate non-perishable food items make a financial contribution or learn more about volunteer opportunities should visit www.helpinginhisname.org or contact Executive Director Teresa McIntyre at 678-565-6135.

 

 

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