By Joel Hall
As the national and local economies have continued to declined, there has also been a steady rise in the number of local people in need of a hot meal. For the third year in a row, the Lovejoy Station Chick-fil-A, in Hampton, will attempt to meet that need through its Holiday Meals Program.
From now until Dec. 24, Lovejoy Station Chick-fil-A will be accepting $5 dollar donations, 100 percent of which will go to providing a complete box meal, valued at $6.50. Each meal, containing a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, chips, a brownie, and a beverage, will be delivered hot to shelters and aid centers across Clayton and Henry counties.
Tracy Fleming, franchise operator of the restaurant, said the business fed about 1,000 people the first year it hosted the program. This year, the restaurant has set a goal of supplying 3,000 meals by the end of the Christmas season.
"It's a pretty ambitious goal, but I think we can do it," said Fleming. "We have seen a big growth this every year. It's taking on a life of its own."
Among shelters in the Southern Crescent to benefit from this year's program are Noah's Ark Childrens Care Home, Rainbow House, Christian Women's Center, A Friend's House, Mount Carmel Personal Care Home, The Salvation Army, and Haven House. Fleming said that as the holidays come around, it becomes more difficult for shelters to feed the needy.
"There is a tremendous need," Fleming said. "With the way the economy is right now, I don't think that people realize how many people struggle to find a good meal.
"When people donate food, it's usually canned corn and string beans," Fleming continued. "By doing this, we are able to give them a meal that they might not be able to afford. People get pretty excited about that."
Marjorie Lacy, executive director of Haven House, a shelter for battered women in McDonough, said the Holiday Meals Program has been popular with the shelter in the last two years. She said the meals provide nourishment, but also encouragement.
"Our food pantry has gone bare three times this year, and that is really unusual," said Lacy. "We are seeing so many homeless people, and we don't know what to do with them.
"[The Holiday Meals Program] helps because it's one less meal we have to try to provide, but it also helps to let them know that there are people out there thinking about them," Lacy said. "They like being remembered, just like everybody else."
Fleming said the holidays are a time to give to the less fortunate, and hopes the community will help them reach their goal of feeding 3,000 people.
"A lot of times, the person who buys that meal is buying it for someone who is practically their neighbor," said Fleming. "We're all in this together."