By Joel Hall
Despite chilly winds and drizzle, hundreds of residents from Clayton, Henry, and Fayette counties waited in line on Friday morning to receive packages of food from Clayton County Community Services in Forest Park.
Community Services opened its doors to recipients at 8:30 -- thirty minutes ahead of schedule -- to accommodate the line of people that wrapped around the building in the early hours of the morning. "People are ready, so we don't make them wait," said Jamminese Miller, community support coordinator for the organization..
To receive a bag, residents had to sign in, provide proof of their income, a valid identification card, and proof that they are residents of Clayton, Henry or Fayette counties.
"With the Fayette and Henry sites, they are exclusive to their counties," said Miller. "This is the main site, and we don't turn anybody away," if they are from one of the three counties.
Each family that is approved receives a bag containing two large cans of juice, one meat, two vegetables, two fruits, and rice -- a total value of about $20 worth of groceries.
While that amount of food may only seem like a little to many people, the food goes a long way toward helping those in need, said Miller, who has participated in the food giveaway for eight years.
"Typically, we used to see seniors and welfare recipients," she said. "Now, we are seeing working families, who are not making enough. We have single men and single women. With the rising cost of food and transportation, we're finding that people aren't able to maintain their entire household."
At the start of the morning, Community Services had filled a room with 986 bags of food. By noon, that number was reduced to less than 200.
Pearl Jennings, a Conley resident, said this was her second or third time receiving the food aid.
"It's helpful because it provides food, if you run out before you get your paycheck," she said. "It's a good program because, if they didn't have it, a lot of people wouldn't have anything to eat. I take it to my father ... he's 96 years old and on a fixed income, so it works for him."
Wilma Mahone, 64, of Forest Park, said she lives by herself in a senior citizen apartment complex, and the food helps her make ends meet.
"It definitely helps if you're on a fixed income," she said. "It helps out, because I don't have anything other than my social security income."
Delores Showers, who has volunteered with Community Services for two years, said helping local families get the nourishment they need is gratifying.
"I wish that I could give them a little more, because I've been there, and I know what the other side of the table feels like," she said. "I makes me feel good to know that I can help someone."