Supply is keeping up with demand at the county’s food bank these days.
Director Bobbie Rooker said the overwhelming amount of donations of food and money during the holidays has spilled over to help them weather the traditionally “leaner” months of January and February.
Rooker said Christmas donations of toys, food and money were “up by half” this year, despite the economy, and helped, she thinks in part, by the food bank’s larger, more prominent location along Hwy. 98 and the new sign out front.
“I’ve had people come by and tell me, ‘I didn’t know we had a county food bank’,” she said. “It’s just better now that we’re more visible.”
Many civic clubs and organizations have continued, and even stepped up, their donations, along with schools, churches, the county and city governments and others, including many individuals.
“It’s just been amazing,” she said.
In addition to long-time volunteer Tracy Morgan, who was given a part-time paid position by the county recently, Rooker said they now have three regular volunteers.
And thanks to the increase in donations, Rooker said they were able to provide a “nice Christmas” to 369 children in 2012, while 226 families were assisted with boxes of food.
“I just can’t say enough about how much I appreciate how the donations have multiplied, it’s really heartwarming,” she said. “It’s wonderful to live in a community that gives so freely of itself.”
But on the flip side, Rooker noted that she has also seen an uptick in clientele.
“I still can’t see much improvement (in the economy),” she said. “I had a man come in the other day and tell me if something didn’t break soon, he just didn’t know how much longer he can survive. That’s something I hear often.”
And Rooker said she is also seeing more transient clients – folks who are homeless, going from place to place searching for work and a place to live.
“We have people in our county who are living under bridges,” she said. “I know of those who are living in a converted shed…if people don’t have a place to sleep and food to eat, they can’t go to school and learn, they can’t look for a job.”
Most who have lost their homes in this area are forced to rely on family and friends, until they wear out their welcome.
She said the nearest homeless shelter for Madison County is the Safe House in Elberton and that is woefully inadequate for such a large area.
“I don’t know the answers,” she said, but she believes a start would be to have some sort of homeless shelter in this county.
She said she realizes that some may feel they don’t want “that kind” of people in their community.
“Well, ‘that kind’ are here, and they’re your neighbors, we need to help,” she said.
Rooker said she meets people every week who never thought to find themselves without a job, without a home, without hope.
“Most of us are just the blink of an eye away from where they are – all it takes is one major illness, one accident, one breadwinner walking away,” she said.
The food bank is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. It is located on Hwy. 98 West, across from EMS station one in the old forestry office.
The food bank accepts both perishable and non-perishable food items, baby items and personal care items. All meats must be processed.
Rooker said the food bank is always in particular need of shampoo, toothbrushes, deodorant, hairbrushes and other personal care items. They are also in need of empty egg cartons to distribute fresh eggs that are donated from farmers.
Call the food bank at 706-795-5465 for more information.
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