As summer begins, Newton County food pantries are struggling to keep shelves full to provide for families in need.
Along with the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter, food banks including the Community Food Pantry and the Salvation Army are in need of such basics as canned meats, boxed lunches with meat, canned pastas, juices and cereals.
"Many of these food banks, like the Atlanta Food Bank, have no food," said Clara Lett, shelter director for the Garden of Gethsemane. "Willing Helpers, the Community Food Pantry, all of the pantries-we all help each other out. But it's been a real struggle."
Many pantries are barely able to keep up with the demand, with donations arriving just as supplies run out.
The Community Food Pantry was nearly out of food until they received a load of supplies on Monday from "Stamp Out Hunger," a food drive organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Director Rosalee Thompson expects the new load of food to last only a month. The food pantry serves 25 to 31 families a day, and also helps out individuals.
"The public is noticing that more needs to be done and they've become more receptive to us," said Thompson. "It's amazing how the community comes together when they know help is needed."
Community Food Pantry has also received help from Curves fitness club, Dollar General, Kroger and several other businesses in the county.
The Covington Salvation Army, who has found that the demand for food rises sharply during the summer, is in need of donations of non-perishables, toiletries and large size (three and up) diapers. Because of the shortage, Service Center director Jody Carver plans to go out of county to seek assistance.
"Places like the Atlanta Food Bank are also struggling, so we'll see," said Carver. "And we don't have a vehicle, so we'll have to find a means of getting the food back here."
The Salvation Army mainly receives its donations from individuals but has also received help from the school system and East Ridge and Journey Baptist churches.
According to Lett, an earlier article in The News spurred several individuals to donate food to the homeless shelter. The shelter nearly ran out of food due to the recent storms tapping into the surrounding shelters' resources. On Tuesday, Lendmark Services gave the shelter a hand by purchasing $2,000 worth of food from BJ's. The shelter also acquired 1,000 pounds of meat from Holifield Farms.
The shelter continues to be in need of the bare necessities - meats, vegetables and fruits that will help create meals for the 69 men, women and children currently in residence. Lette is also looking for anybody willing to volunteer their services, whether it is for plumbing or handyman purposes.
"It costs us $5,000 to $6,000 to keep this facility running," said Lett. "Sometimes, things like toilets or broken doors may need to be fixed, and any volunteers with those kinds of skill are deeply appreciated."
Willing Helpers Food Ministry on Brown Bridge Road is trying to do more than provide food for families and individuals. Director Jack Vanderzwart says the most important service they provide is prayer counseling for those in need, whether it is because of the loss of a job or morale.
Willing Helpers is providing food for 50 to 75 families a day, giving each family $50-$60 worth of groceries a week. Vanderzwart credits the local churches, grocery stores, generous individuals and especially the small donations from the families receiving the food for the pantry's ability to sustain.
"This pantry wants to be a blessing for these people," said Vanderzwart. "And we're blessed for being able to help them."