By Ed Brock
Sitting amid piles of groceries, Frances Sinkfield admits there was a silver lining to last week's break-in that emptied the pantry of Kinship Care Resource Center in Jonesboro.
"In a way it was sad, but just look what developed," said 62-year-old Sinkfield.
Sinkfield has been taking care of her 17-year-old grandson all of his life, and like so many other grandparents raising grandchildren she has come to count on the resource center and the groceries they provide.
"They're there for you when you need them," Sinkfield said. "It's an uplifting program."
But the weekend before last employees at the center, which operates under the Clayton County Aging Program, discovered that somebody had taken almost all of the food out of the basement storeroom. The thieves apparently carried there loot over a tall fence topped with barbed wire into an apartment complex behind the center on Tara Boulevard.
Police are still looking for suspects.
"We're still following up on information," Turner said.
The center exists to support a growing section of the senior population in which older people become the custodians of their young grandchildren for various reasons.
Some of these grandparents must survive on around $560 in money from Social Security payments and foodstamps, said Kinship Care Program Director Angie Burda.
Since the media began reporting the story of the theft, however, people around the state have flooded the center with food donations.
Sherrill Jordan, operations manager with the Southern Star Industry trucking company in Jasper, saw a news brief about the theft on her computer.
"It broke my heart, so I went into the boss (Robert Mein) and said you have an empty tractor trailer this weekend, let's do something," Jordan said.
So they gathered donations from local companies, including a Pepsi distributor, and drove that trailer full of special treats to Jonesboro.
"It just touched our hearts," Jordan said.
Burda said the community response has been immense.
"Something that was meant to be evil has turned to good," Burda said. "If we wind up with more than we need we will definitely pass that along to others who are serving the community. The need will go on beyond this point."
Grandparents like Sinkfield have been pitching in to help sort the donations and answer the phone. But despite the silver lining to the dark cloud that descended on the center last week, Sinkfield has a message for the thieves.
"Whoever did it, they won't have good luck because they took from us," Sinkfield said.