Retiring Love calls food pantry a ‘lighthouse’ in the community

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

After years of dedicating her life to serving others in Henry County, Nola Love says she is ready to see what lies ahead in her own life.

Left, Nola Love, executive director of Helping in His Name Food Pantry passes the keys to Kaye Sheets, who will be taking over the position. Photo by Seth Jackson

Love, of College Park, retired this week as executive director of the Helping in His Name food pantry in Stockbridge. She says she is proud of the work she and her team of volunteers have done to help those in need over the years.

“I feel like the food pantry has been a lighthouse for the community,” says Love. “I’ve had many families who have said, ‘We would have gone hungry had it not been for the food pantry.’”

Helping in His Name, at 85 Bellamy Place in Stockbridge, is a Christian-based organization that serves about 3,000 people each month. Its mission, says Love, is to share “the love and compassion of Jesus by providing free food and encouragement to needy families in Henry County.”

Love came on board at the food pantry in October 2008, after running the Love ‘n Joy Alteration Shop in College Park for nearly three decades. She says the reason she came to Helping in His Name was that she wanted to help those around her, just as she has strived to do throughout her career.

“I came out of retirement to do what I’m doing,” explains Love. “I mended clothes for 27 years, and I wanted to mend hearts the rest of my life. That’s when I came to the food pantry.”

Helping in His Name, currently in its 26th year, operates with the help of a large warehouse, storage facilities and trailers containing food. Love says while her facility has had to expand the amount of time pantry is open to accommodate the needs of the community, the community has been generous in showing its support.

“When I came on board, we had just had a robbery, and we had no trucks,” she says. “Now we have three trucks, and they stay busy every day picking up food for the pantry.”

Helping in His Name purchases food from the Atlanta Food Bank at 16 cents a pound. The food pantry also depends heavily on donations from the community.

Those donations have come from partners including Publix, Starbucks, Kroger, the Community Gardens of Henry County and various local businesses and churches. Love says the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs of Henry County, as well as the McDonough Lions Club and Woodmen of the World, have also pitched in with donations over the years.

Love says she has recently seen a slight decline in the need for food at the pantry, and is hopeful that it signals an improving economy. Still, she says some families in Henry continue to struggle in putting food on the table.

She is particularly burdened for kids who go to school every day without having enough to eat when they get home.

“There are over 800 children sitting in the classrooms that only eat breakfast and lunch at school,” says Love. “So, hunger is very real in Henry County.”

Lynn Moses, homeless liaison for Henry County Schools, says the school system served more than 900 students last year who were living in a homeless situation, as well as others facing economic need and “food insecurity.” Moses commended Love and the volunteers at the food pantry for their efforts to curb these problems locally.

“The staff and volunteers at Helping in His Name Food Pantry coordinate with the school system on a regular basis to organize food drives with our schools and provide food to our families in need,” says Moses.

Love acknowledges that she has been working with the food pantry longer than she initially planned. Nevertheless, she is grateful for the opportunity it has given her to help others.

“When I came on, I was 70 years old, and thought I would be here about two years, but it’s been a wonderful journey for me,” she says. “I’ve met a lot of wonderful people, and I’ve watched the community rally together to meet the challenges. I will always have many memories of the journey here, but I’m looking forward to my new journey.”

That new journey, Love says, will soon take her away from the food pantry, and straight down the aisle.

“I’m getting married Jan. 2, to my teenage sweetheart,” she says. “I’m looking forward to getting on with my new life. I’m looking forward to traveling, fishing and not having to solve problems.”

Love and her fiancé, Charles, plan to move to Florida after their wedding. She says she is looking forward to watching the food pantry’s ministry grow under the direction of its new Executive Director, Kaye Sheets.

“I have confidence that she’s going to do a superb job,” says Love.

Sheets, of Stockbridge, retired in May from teaching at Patrick Henry High School, where she worked for 15 years. A 20-year veteran educator in Henry County, she also taught previously in Clayton County.

Sheets says her passion for serving others makes it a “natural progression” to make the move to Helping in His Name.

“As a teacher at the alternative school, I wanted to do something that was going to continue to help the families of Henry County,” says Sheets. “I have a heart to serve the kingdom of God and just be an expression of God’s love to the people of Henry County. God’s prepared me over the years since I was a little girl to meet the challenge. I’m going to trust in Him, not in Kaye.”

Sheets says prayer, volunteers and donations are essential elements in the food pantry’s success. She hopes her efforts will benefit the community and adds that she wants to follow the example set by Love at Helping in His Name.

“My focus will be just to continue everything that Nola has done,” says Sheets. “I want her ceiling to be my floor, and to continue building this lighthouse that she has been so instrumental to keep going in Henry County. It takes a lot to keep the light shining in the lighthouse. The trucks have to keep running, the utilities have to paid and the warehouse has to be filled.”

As for Love, she says while she is “not perfect by any means,” she looks back fondly on her time at Helping in His Name.

“It’s been a great joy to work at the food pantry and see lives touched,” says Love. “We’ve gotten a lot accomplished. I feel like when I leave, I’ve done my best.”

For more information on Helping in His Name, call 678-565-6135 or visit www.helping