In the last few days, three ministries in the county that give aid to the economically disadvantaged have had to either shut down temporarily or turn people away due to a lack of funds and food.
In the wake of the continuing national recession, the Community Food Pantry and FaithWorks have both had to close and the homeless shelter in Porterdale has had to turn people away in the face of an overwhelming wave of families in need of food and shelter.
Rosalee Thompson, director of the food pantry, said the pantry has closed its doors until Nov. 10 for lack of food to distribute. Thompson said donations of food have slowed recently while requests for food have risen sharply.
"I guess the people [who usually contribute] are having a hard time too, so they’re not able to donate lots," she said.
Thompson said she received 35 requests for food packages from families Friday, down slightly from 38 requests on Thursday.
"The folks that have come; it’s just overwhelming," Thompson said. "I really enjoy helping them, but when it gets to be so many, it gets frustrating. This is the worst it’s ever been, and I’ve been doing [ministry work] for 20 plus years."
Donations of food items can be dropped off at the Community Food Pantry, located at 7125 Turner Lake Circle, or dropped off next door at FaithWorks when the pantry is closed. The pantry’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., Monday and Thursday and 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Tuesday and Friday
Bob Furnad, chairman of FaithWorks, said the ministry, which provides emergency financial aid for the paying of electricity bills and rent, will remain closed until enough funds ($3,400) are raised to run operations for at least two days.
"I’ve never seen it like this in almost six years in my experience with this type of ministry," Furnad said. "The need is just enormous."
Furnad said the type of families requesting aid has also changed in recent months. Rather than receiving requests from employees of Wal-Mart who have seen their hours cut back or Waffle House waitresses who have seen a decline in their tips, Furnad said they are receiving applications from workers with two degrees who have been laid off from white-collar jobs and whose houses are in foreclosure.
"It’s just a sad, sad situation," he said, adding the ministry has received as many as 30 applications in a single day.
For qualified applicants, FaithWorks will give up to $150 once a year for the payment of utilities or rent paid directly to the landlord. Because of the number of applicants, Furnad said financial aid currently has been restricted just to applicants who have received cutoff notices for their electricity.
Monetary contributions to FaithWorks can be sent to P.O. Box 2972, Covington, Ga. 30015. Checks should be made out to FaithWorks.
Rainbow Covenant Ministries Director the Rev. Clara Lett, who runs Newton County’s only homeless shelter in Porterdale, said she has had to turn families away because the shelter is full.
"We had so many people that we’ve been turning away 20 or more folks a day," Lett said, adding that the ministry has gone as far as laying down sleeping mats in the Rainbow Community Church’s sanctuary.
Rainbow Covenant Ministries had to shut down its food pantry in September when it ran out of food to distribute. The shelter nearly ran out of food to cook for its own residents said Lett until Eastridge Community Church came to the rescue with an emergency food donation.
"It really breaks your heart because you can only do so much," Lett said, adding that the ministry has had some of its local funding and grants from churches and businesses cut off or delayed because of the poor economy.
"Either they had to cut the funds completely or they had to cut back," she said. "We have really just felt a real pain from that. It’s tough out here."
Lett said the adults living at the shelter have had a difficult time finding jobs in the current economy. Many of the families coming to the shelter have lost their homes through foreclosure she said.
Plans to move to Turner Lake Circle, alongside the Community Food Pantry and FaithWorks have been postponed multiple times because the shelter lacked the necessary funding to pay for renovations to the Turner Lake Circle location.
However, Lett said she hopes some beds in the shelter can be relocated to Turner Lake Circle in December, which she said will free up some funding currently used to rent two houses in Porterdale where the men’s quarters are located.
Financial donations to the shelter can be sent to P.O. Box 683, Porterdale, Ga. 30070. Checks can be made to the Rainbow Community Center Homeless Shelter.