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Community comes to pantry's aid
Local Jackson Hewitt offices host food drive

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Samaritans Together food pantry in Forest Park, which provides groceries for 40 or so needy Southern Crescent families each week, was running dangerously low on supplies last month. This week, the community has come to the pantry's aid, helping one of the area's key food providers slowly restock its cabinets.

Jamminese Miller, community support coordinator for the Clayton County Community Services Authority, which houses the pantry, said that in the past week, grocery stores, churches and private donors have reached out the organization, despite the tough economy.

"I think it's awesome that it was an immediate response," Miller said. "When the call went out, the community responded. Several churches have contributed more food, as well as some social organizations. They are bringing checks and food."

Miller said that in the past week, the Market Grocery Company at the State Farmers Market, as well as local Kroger, Aldi, and Food Depot stores have let pantry volunteers shop for free. She added that the Jonesboro Kiwanis Club, Boy Scout Troop 909 in Jonesboro, First Baptist Church of Jonesboro and Jonesboro First United Methodist Church have all made major donations of food, and that the city of Forest Park recently pledged to give a $2,500 donation to the pantry.

Other organizations around the Southern Crescent have taken creative steps to gather donations for the shelter.

In an effort to help, Jackson Hewitt tax preparation service is sponsoring a food drive for Samaritans Together at 10 different locations in the south-metro area.

From now until April 15, local Jackson Hewitt offices will give a $30 discount on its tax services to anyone who donates a canned good or non-perishable item to the pantry.

Twyla Morris, metro Atlanta marketing coordinator for Jackson Hewitt, said the publicity has helped bring more customers to the tax offices. Since the start of the drive on March 1, people getting their taxes done have brought in soups, canned vegetables, and other dry goods to benefit the pantry, she said.

"We're getting a lot more people in," Morris said. "People are bringing a canned food in and they are excited about the discount and the fact that what they bring in might help somebody who may not eat."

Of all the locations participating in the drive, the Jackson Hewitt office located inside the Wal-Mart Super Center in Riverdale has collected the most donations so far. Athena Wagner, the office's assistant manager, said the store's location has made a difference.

"It's a lot easier," she said. "When we tell them what it's for, they get excited. As soon as people are done with their tax preparation, they will go out and buy a canned good, so it works out wonderfully."

Ruth Jones, vice president of hunger for Samaritans Together, said the pantry is still desperately low on some food items, such as cereals, peanut butter, jelly and crackers. She said the pantry is also in need of volunteers to help Samaritans Together stay open more than two days a week. The community's efforts, though, are making an impact, she said.

"It's really helped us," she said. "We were down to nothing. If we have the food and the volunteers, we could stay open longer. All I can say is that every bit helps."

To contact the Samaritans Together food pantry, call (770) 961-7252 or (770) 961-1486.