By Johnny Jackson
Christy Crumbley's eyes beamed as she took the shopping cart down the first aisle.
She gazed over the high shelves in search for bargains on canned fruit as her friend, Ming Richardson, began to weigh their cart down with other non-perishable items, and Lori Miller did the same at the other end of the grocery store aisle.
"We're so thankful," said a pleased Miller.
Miller is the executive director of the Stockbridge-based non-profit, Helping in His Name Ministries, Inc., Food Pantry, which about two weeks ago was the victim of theft.
On Sept. 16, Henry County Police filed a report of an auto theft at the pantry. Miller was one of the first to discover that the pantry's 25-foot box truck and its contents had been stolen over night. The truck contained approximately 6,500 pounds of food and supplies worth roughly $13,000, and was later found in Atlanta, abandoned and empty.
The food pantry has since struggled to help recoup the loss to help its more than 500 needy families, or more than 24,000 individuals, in the area.
On Thursday, Miller joined Crumbley and Richardson- two of the pantry's 16 board members - in accepting a $500 gift card from Kroger, located on Jonesboro Road in McDonough. They used the gift card to purchase canned fruit, tuna, vegetables and some hygiene products.
Store Manager Ron Thrift helped acquire the $500 gift card when he heard about the non-profit organization's situation. Kroger regularly donates its day-old bread products to the pantry.
"You all are awesome," said Kroger Co-manager Linda Jackson. "We wish we could do more."
The Kroger gift card was the latest in a swell of community support, according to Miller.
"We have a lot of support from the community," she said. "It's really boosted us and encouraged us to continue on."
Miller said she believes the pantry's misfortune may have been a blessing in disguise, particularly during times of economic hardship that are leading into the holiday season.
"The public's been awesome," added Richardson. "Our goal is to serve our community and help those less fortunate, and help them know Christ."
Various organizations have committed to hosting food drives for the group. Richardson said the pantry has gotten responses from around Georgia, even from individuals and organizations in other states. So far, the pantry has managed to receive nearly $22,000 worth of cash and in-kind donations.
For its delivery pick-ups, the pantry is currently making use of a truck on loan from John Fant's Last Call Ministries in Stockbridge. The pantry hopes to eventually be able to afford a new, refrigerated, box truck for its ministries.
Anyone with information pertaining to the auto theft at the pantry, is asked to contact the Henry County Police Department. For more information about the food pantry, visit Helping in His Name Ministries, Inc., online, or call (678) 565-6135.
On the net:
Helping in His Name Ministries, Inc.: www.helpinginhisname.org