By Joel Hall
Feed My People (FMP), a Stockbridge-based food pantry, thrift store, and indigent counseling center, recently set its sights on moving to a bigger location in Lake City, in order to expand its programs.
To purchase the 60,000-square-foot building, which was once the Ingles Supermarket on Jonesboro Road, the nonprofit must raise $5 million.
Earlier this month, a corporate donation of $5,000 from the H.J. Heinz Company has started FMP on the path to its goal.
"It's very significant, because this is going to serve as a catalyst to spearhead the fund-raising campaign, so we can secure this building ... other companies will follow suit," said Carolyn McKenzie, media spokesperson for FMP.
In what the organization is calling its "Capital Fund-raising Campaign," the group has set out to raise the $5 million by soliciting $5,000 to $10,000 donations from at least 1,000 donors.
"The H.J. Heinz Company is the first company to make a donation to FMP as we move toward initiating a capital fund-raising campaign to purchase our building and offer additional programs to our clients," said FMP Executive Director Allyson Lewis, in a written statement. "In addition to our food distribution efforts, the 60,000-square-foot building will allow us to provide more programs to families in need and in transition, including driver's education, literacy programs, Spanish and English language classes, and hot meals."
What started five years ago as a small food pantry inside The Village Church in Stockbridge, has grown into one of the largest food-distribution programs in the Southern Crescent. In 2007 alone, the organization distributed 2.5 million pounds of food to more than 24,000 individuals.
FMP has recently seen an increased demand on it's services, and thus, feels the need to move into a bigger space, McKenzie said.
"The need is getting greater and greater," said McKenzie. "The middle class is becoming the working poor ... most people are one paycheck away from disaster, and two or three paychecks away from foreclosure.
"Once you have been homeless, your self-esteem is pretty much shot, so we want to help rebuild the whole person," McKenzie added. She said in the new building, FMP would offer additional programs, such as career training, self-esteem and self-confidence courses, work-study programs for students, and crime, violence, and drug prevention programs.
Kabobs Inc., a subsidiary of the H.J. Heinz Company, with a factory located in Lake City, facilitated the $5,000 grant. Stephanie Ackerman, public relations coordinator for Heinz North America, said the company wants FMP to reach its goal.
"The employees at Heinz's Kabobs, Inc., nominated the Feed My People organization because of the organization's focus on improving the community through mentoring, teaching life skills, dispensing food, furnishing clothing, and promoting economic advancement," said Ackerman in a written statement.
"With this donation, the hope is that it will enable Feed My People to continue to provide assistance through its food bank program to those in need in the community."