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Food Pantry celebrates 20 years in Henry

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The reach of the local food pantry has exceeded its physical bounds over the past two decades.

"It's a faith operation," said Donna Crumbley, of Helping in His Name Ministries, Inc., Food Pantry.

"We don't have the money to do some of what we do, but we do it, any way, on the faith that God will come through. And he always does," added Crumbley, an ex-officio member of the board of directors and former president of the Stockbridge-based food pantry.

Crumbley joined some 200 other volunteers at the Locust Grove Conference Center in Locust Grove, on Aug. 14, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the non-profit operation known as The Food Pantry, whose mission is to feed the area's hungry and needy.

"It was wonderful to see all of the volunteers," she said.

Crumbley, who presided over the organization for 15 years before she retired in late 2008, gave volunteers a history of the organization, from its small beginnings in a church hall, located in east McDonough, to its current warehouse-sized undertaking in Stockbridge. In the 1990s, "we paid $60,000 for that little house on [Ga. Highway] 155 in McDonough," she said. "We sold it for $397,000, and we were able to pay cash for the new building in Stockbridge, for $365,000, in 2007."

Officials with the group said with its new facilities, The Food Pantry is able to serve more than 1,000 families monthly.

Crumbley reflected on the organization's founder, Susan Peters, who created The Food Pantry in 1990 to assist people caught up in the food-stamp application process. She said Peters, now living in De Pere, Wis., galvanized the support of nearly a dozen others in the community to provide food pantry services through St. James Catholic Church in McDonough, using the church hall to distribute free food.

At the recent anniversary celebration, current president of the organization, Nola Love, was the keynote speaker. "My goal, right now, is to try to increase the amount of food that we're giving families," she said. "People are getting laid off every day. [And] our warehouse is the emptiest it's been in the last two years that I've been here.

"Our celebration was a fantastic success," she said. "For me, it was a great victory. I was absolutely elated to be a part of it. To be a part of an organization that has been so faithful, and stands on the same foundation it was founded on -- to see how excited the people were and how cooperative they were, my heart was overwhelmed. We're still carrying that same ministry out today."

Today, The Food Pantry continues to serve growing needs with fewer and fewer sponsorships, said Love, noting that the decline is the result of the down-turn in the economy. Love said: "I foresee that, if we continue to grow [in need], we're also going ... to [require] more volunteers on board."

Lori Miller, long-time director of The Food Pantry, said the organization receives assistance from roughly 150 volunteers throughout the year, and has logged 16,375 volunteer hours since January, which equates to $341,419 worth in volunteer service. The organization, she continued, also has helped 309,416 people since officials began tracking clients in 1996.

"This ministry truly would not exist without the passion of many of those people who have the heart to help," Miller said. "Looking at the economic situation, I don't see it getting better any time soon. Right now, the biggest challenge is getting enough food in to feed the people. It would be nice if we could do other things ... things that are going to help people not need us any more, and to help them become more independent again."

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On the net:

Helping in His Name Ministries, Inc., Food Pantry: www.helpinginhisname.org.