By Michael Davis
Kim Mitchell came to Feed My People for the first time Friday. The 32-year-old mother of three said she had been referred to the food pantry by a women's shelter to look for clothing and food for her children after having fallen on hard times.
After leaving Missouri and heading back for Clayton County with her children, Mitchell said her car was broken into and all of her and her children's belongings were stolen. "I must have cried for a week," Mitchell said.
Awaiting an interview to register as a Feed My People client, Mitchell said, "I believe when you get things from a ministry, you should always give back to the ministry."
A retired truck driver, 44-year-old Annette Lee of Rex, and a crew of other volunteers started the Feed My People thrift-store and food pantry last year with the hopes of reaching out to the needy of Clayton and Henry counties.
From a modest beginning, Lee and some 40 regular volunteers at Feed My People now serve almost 200 client-families from a storefront on Ga. Highway 42 in Stockbridge with donated food and household items. "We have lots of clients that have been here since the beginning," said Julie Kennedy, food bank director. With other services like job-placement and computer-skills training supposed to start within the next few weeks, Kennedy said, "We don't give them a hand out, we give them a hand up."
Working solely on donated food products from grocers, bakers, Forest Park Farmer's Market merchants and other ministries, Lee said they often go to great lengths to stock their shelves, even picking up baked goods at midnight. "We just do whatever it takes to get the food here," said Lee.
Feed My People has become a passion in Lee's life. After her husband suffered a heart attack and subsequent transplant, he could no longer drive a truck in the family business, Lee said. Trying to keep it going herself, something started pushing her to open the food bank and thrift-store. "Everything that used to work stopped working," she said. "And everywhere I turned, I just kept hearing God say, ?feed my people, feed my people.'"
Working to build up the food bank at her local church The Village, she said the pastor eventually asked her to move operations because it got to be too big. The last haul her tractor-trailer made was to deliver produce to the pantry, she said.
Since the store opened in December of 2002, Feed My People has networked with 43 other ministries to trade food and other items to keep the pantry open.
Lee said that at one point, the thrift-store, which funds operating expenses, was not making enough money to even buy toilet paper for the building. The store was relieved when another ministry donated some of theirs. "God never gives you a vision without a provision," said Lee.
Volunteer Coordinator Janice Brown said the store is always looking for volunteers to sort clothing, pick up food or anything else they can do. "We're looking for volunteers, especially retirees that may have just a few hours to donate," said Brown. She said some churches even volunteer as a group to help out.
"It still blows me away," said Lee of the success of the store and the dedication of the volunteers. "This is more rewarding than anything else I've done."