Some come to drop off donated items to help out their neighbors. Others come to pick up a few items they are in need of during hard times. Whatever the reason they are stopping by, they are sure to get a blessing.
Mandy Stewart’s Blessing Box in Lula has provided many blessings for the community since she started it in May of this year.
“I saw so many in the Lula area struggling and in need of physical and spiritual help,” Stewart said. “My heart began to break for my community. I knew God was calling me to do something.”
Amanda Browning with Amanda’s Farm to Fork Resturant in downtown Lula contacted Stewart to offer her restaurant as a location to place the Blessing Box that Stewart and her husband, Eric, built. That is where the first Blessing Box was placed, and it is still located there today.
“Since placing our little gray blessing box at Amanda’s Farm to Fork Restaurant, we now have a second Blessing Box, located at the Lula Gifts and Pharmacy in downtown Lula,” Stewart said. “We are also in the process right now of upgrading our little gray blessing box at Amanda’s Farm to Fork with a larger blessing box that will also be able to hold clothing, along with food, hygiene, and basic household items.”
Items left in the boxes include non-perishable food, hygiene items, fresh vegetables from gardens in the summer months, blankets, winter hats and gloves, diapers and baby formula.
“My family has always had a heart to serve others through a variety of ministries, but this is the first time we have placed a blessing box in our community,” Stewart said. “The neat thing about the blessing boxes are they are available for people in need to access 24 hours a day/7 days a week. No questioned asked.”
Not long after she started the Blessing Box effort, Stewart started Love Your Neighbor Ministries.
“God began to confirm to me His plan for Love Your Neighbor Ministries,” she said. “Through the ministry, my desire is to love and honor God; and to love and serve others. Because as a Follower of Jesus Christ, I am His hands and feet, and I am commanded to love God and to love my neighbor. A lot of times when we think of our neighbor, we think of the person who lives right next door to us, but according to the Word of God, our neighbor is anyone we see in need. So that grandma struggling to raise her grandchildren, that homeless man who has lost his job and can’t find work, that drug addict who is so caught up in their addiction they neglect their own children’s needs, that single mom who is doing all she can to take care of her kids, that granny and grandpa who struggle to make it on the small amount they collect each month, or the family who is caring for a disabled or special needs family member. They are our neighbors too.”
To help support this ministry, you can drop off donations inside Amanda’s Farm to Fork Restaurant on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or anytime at the little green Donation Box located at 6217 Main Street, Lula, GA 30554, or you can email Mandy Stewart at: LoveYourNeighborLula@gmail.com for more information on Love Your Neighbor Ministries. You can also check out the ministry on Facebook @LoveYourNeighborLula.
“We try to keep it stocked the best we can, but for the past few months, more people have been using it; so it’s a challenge at times to keep it filled,” Stewart said. “We do the best we can, along with the help of the community and donations.”
The Banks County School System moved to remote learning on Wednesday, Dec. 16, due to COVID-19. Superintendent Ann Hopkins reported that the number of cases among staff has made it difficult to provide personnel to cover the school.
"Our school system has begun to experience a higher COVID-19 spread rate, especially among our staff members, making it difficult to provide the personnel support necessary to continue face-to-face instruction through the remainder of our last week before the break," Hopkins said. "Therefore, the last day students will attend school will be Tuesday, December 15, 2020."
Hopkins said the plans are to "thoroughly clean, sanitize and disinfect all buildings and facilities to prepare for students and staff to return in January."
"Unfortunately, according to the Center for Disease Control, North Georgia is a developing COVID-19 hotspot," Hopkins said. "Please be aware that our return to school in the new year is not guaranteed. We will closely monitor the numbers and coordinate with all local, state and federal officials to determine the safety in returning to face-to-face instruction."
In an effort to be proactive in the event that the school system cannot immediately return to face-to-face instruction in January, school officials are sending home mobile devices with all students by Tuesday, December 15.
"This will ensure that we are prepared to pivot to remote learning should the need arise," Hopkins said. "Please know that we are delighted that we have been able to provide face-to-face instruction for almost all of our first semester. We will work to do so in the second semester as well, but we encourage families to develop a backup plan should we need to transition to remote learning."
Hopkins added, "We hope that you and your family are safe and continue to use precautions during the holiday season. Upon our return to school, we will strongly recommend all students and staff members wear masks especially when social distancing is not possible."
School nutrition services will still be provided for all students for the remainder of the week of December 16-18. Information regarding pick up times and locations will be posted on the school website and social media.
Banks County is having a large Covid outbreak, making it one of the most troubled areas in Northeast Georgia for the virus.
According to state data, Banks' virus rate over the last two weeks is at 801 people per 100,000. Only Habersham and White counties are slightly higher in the area. Statewide, the rate is only 516 per 100,000 people.
As for the percentage of those who tested over the past week, 18.1 percent were positive for COVID.
Since March, Banks had reported 924 positive cases of Covid with 113 people hospitalized and 12 confirmed deaths.
There have been multiple cases of COVID-19 reported among the staff at the Banks County Courthouse Annex, which has led to the number of people being allowed inside the facility being limited because of the staff shortage.
"The Banks County government offices are open during regular hours with limited staff," county clerk Jenni Clerk states. "We will monitor the number of persons allowed in any office at any given time until further notice. You may call the department of your choice located under the 'Departments' tab on the Banks County Government website or you may also call 706-677-6200 if you have questions."
The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be in Banks County next week and will be given out first to health care workers and nursing home residents.
Banks County Board of Commission chairman Charles Turk reported that he has met with local public health officials and been told that the vaccine will be in the county next week. He said health care workers and nursing home residents will be given the vaccine first.
“It will then go to first responders,” Turk reports.
There have been 839 cases of COVID-19 reported in Banks County since March, with 12 deaths attributed to the virus. There are approximately 37 new COVID-19 cases per week being reported in the county.
Banks County High School football players were nominated to participate in the annual East/West FCA Football Game.
The game was not able to be played this year due to COVID, but players from across Northeast Georgia were still nominated by their coaches.
BCHS Football Players named were: Wyatt Whitfield, Jace Bennett, Corey Vickery and Tanner Kaminiski.
The BCHS FCA Club is led by Kim Carithers. She states that the purpose of The Fellowship of Christian Athletes exists to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. FCA sets out to engage, equip, and empower students and athletes to carry out their message.
"We have character coaches sharing and discipline athletes and coaches, we have special events catered to serve and honor athletes and coaches for their effort and influence in their communities," Carithers said. "Banks County FCA has weekly huddles at BCES and BCMS and monthly huddles at BCHS giving students and student athletes an opportunity lead and serve. We are extremely proud of these young men for representing FCA."