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Posted: November 26, 2010 12:00 a.m.

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How to help

Local ministries offer assistance to those in need during the holidays

By Chris Queen/

Season for sharing: The holiday season can be rough on some families, so several local ministries are doing everything in their power to provide food and other necessities to families in need. Above, a ministry worker uses a forklift to move doz...

During the hustle and busyness of the holidays, it’s easy to overlook the fact that many people in the community need help.

If you want to do your part this season, there are several outlets and ministries in Newton County in need of your services.

For example, Solid Rock Baptist Church, 8111 Brown Bridge Road, operates three ministries that cater to people in need. Willing Helpers Food Pantry provides food for a donation of $8 to those who lack the money to purchase groceries, Willing Helpers Medical Clinic provides medical services for those who otherwise could not afford it, and RockMart Thrift Store sells donated items at discount prices, with the proceeds helping homeless men.

Its food pantry accepts any and all food items. Director Jack Vanderzwart says that the ministry is particularly passionate about helping children who are at home alone until their parents get home from work. Items such as peanut butter, jelly, fruit cups, fresh fruit and other snacks that kids can prepare themselves are especially welcome.

"I don’t know what it is about Newton County, but the people here are very responsive to the needs of others," said Vanderzwart. "This year the schools have been collecting for the food banks, and the children have been absolutely wonderful. The annual Postal Service collection and the countywide food drive in March are almost overwhelming in the response we get."

The medical clinic is in need of devices to check cholesterol and blood-clotting times.

One suggestion for those interested in donating to the thrift store is to donate items that are replaced by Christmas gifts, such as clothing, toys, and appliances. RockMart also reconditions old appliances.

"I thoroughly enjoy serving those in need at this time of year," said Vanderzwart. "I only wish people would remember that most of these folks are in need year round and not just during the holidays."

You can bring donations to the church. To volunteer, call (678) 342-3434 for the food pantry or medical clinic or (770) 784-0982 for the thrift store.

Another ministry with a presence in Newton County is one whose profile is raised dramatically during the holidays. The Salvation Army’s bell ringers and kettles are ubiquitous at stores throughout the weeks leading to Christmas. The Salvation Army also operates a donation center and thrift store in Covington. According to Jody Carver, Director of the Salvation Army’s store and donation center, the bulk of its donations for the year come in at Christmas.

"This is the time of year that people dig deep into their pockets and give monetary donations, along with donations of food, clothing, household items, and new toys for Christmas," said Carver. "These donations have to last for the next year, because people are in need 12 months of the year despite donations dropping off after the holidays."

The Salvation Army gives food to hungry families. Clothing and household donations go directly to families in need or are sold at the store at a minimal cost. Proceeds from the store help local families and individuals with rent, utilities, and prescriptions. The Salvation Army also gives toys to children and serves senior citizens.

"Any donation today means feeding someone tomorrow, clothing someone tomorrow, helping someone keep their lights on for another 30 days, helping a family avoid eviction for another month, or getting much needed life saving prescriptions for a patient," said Carver.

There are plenty of ways for people to get involved with the Salvation Army this Christmas season. Individuals or families can volunteer to ring a bell at a store in Covington or to help sort items at the donation center. Monetary donations are always welcome, and donations of new or used toys, clothing, and other household items or appliances will help families in need throughout Newton County.

To donate items, visit the donation center at 5193 Washington St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Anyone who is interested in volunteering can call the Salvation Army at (770) 786-2107.

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