By Joel Hall
Community workers, volunteers, law-enforcement officials, and inmates pulled together Wednesday to provide local residents with vital food supplies.
During the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Surplus Food Distribution, the Clayton County Community Services Authority (CSA) delivered more than 1,000 bags of food to needy people in Forest Park, Lovejoy, and surrounding areas.
According CSA Executive Director Charles W. Grant, the distribution represents the fourth, and final one the CSA is able to offer residents of the Southern Crescent this year. He said food is scarce for many families.
"A lot of people are out of work this time of year, particularly those in construction," Grant said. "Also, it is getting close to Thanksgiving, so we want to make food available to the poor and the elderly. People do desperate things when they have desperate needs. We hope that nobody goes hungry in Clayton, Fayette, or Henry counties."
Each mesh bag was packed with pork, mixed vegetables, green beans, carrots, tomato sauce, pinto beans, rice, peanuts, peanut butter, tomato soup, sweat peas, spaghetti sauce, and other staples.
According to CSA officials, 994 bags of food were handed out to Clayton County residents on Wednesday at the CSA headquarters on Main Street in Forest Park, and the Lovejoy Community Center, on Hastings Bridge Road in Hampton.
On Tuesday, 456 bags of food were distributed in Henry County at three different locations. Fayette County received no bags of food in this particular distribution, CSA officials said.
In Forest Park, officials used the food distribution as an opportunity to provide needy residents with other vital services. Residents received information about the 2010 Census from the U.S. Census Bureau, foreclosure advice from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and information about weatherization and heating-bill assistance from the CSA.
In Lovejoy, residents coming to the Lovejoy Community Center for food were treated to three truckloads of free clothing provided by First Baptist Church of Lovejoy.
Jamminese Miller, CSA's Community Support Coordinator, organized this year's food distribution efforts. She said that, while the community's need for the distribution has grown, so has community support.
"There are so many families in need," Miller said. "I don't even have words. I've run out of bags each time. More people are getting to know about the service and the agency as well. The [Sheriff's] deputies are actually helping bag the food, load the trucks and distribute it to people. Before, the deputies would just drop the inmates off, but now they are actively getting involved. Volunteers also help in delivering the bags."
Mike Hardin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lovejoy, helped distribute clothing to those who picked up bags of food at the Lovejoy Community Center on Wednesday morning. He said the church and other service organizations involved in the distribution were able to reach more people through collaboration.
"We did our first clothing drive in July, and it was a good turnout, but not nearly as much as this," Hardin said. "One of the things that builds our ministry is getting off our campus. Generally, the people who are in need of food are the same people who can benefit from the clothes. This way, we can bless them in more than one way."