By Jason A. Smith
The co-founder of a local charitable organization said he was "very humbled" to be recognized for his efforts to feed people in need. Donny Carden, of We Care Ministries, Inc., in Hampton, received the Circle of Hope Award Saturday, from the Atlanta-based Caring for Others, Inc., an organization that seeks to prevent homelessness and aids those without life's basic necessities.
"I like to stay in the background," said Carden. "I don't need the pat on the back. I'm grateful for the award."
Carden has been active in the food ministry, located at 470 Steele Drive, since 1990, with co-founder Darrel King. Carden said the two launched the organization out of a joint desire to stomp out hunger in Henry County.
"There were so many hungry people out there," he said. "We make ourselves available, day or night, to give people food -- if they need it. We've reached, literally, hundreds of thousands of people over the years, I would think."
Caring for Others' President and Chief Executive Officer Eslne Richmond-Shockley, said Carden's "generous" spirit led to his selection for the award. "One of the reasons Mr. Carden received the award is because of his work for the community," she said. "He makes sure that necessary food is always there, to feed the community."
King said the concept for We Care Ministries came, in part, through his work with juvenile courts in Henry County. The need for such a venue, and the response from the public, have increased over the years, he said.
"I became really burdened by seeing so many people in need for the basic things of life -- especially single moms trying to raise their kids, and put food on the table," said King. "Our society has changed a lot, and the needs are growing. Instead of us trying to feed everybody, personally, it has grown to include other organizations and churches, primarily in Henry County."
We Care Ministries has expanded efforts beyond county lines, going as far as Mississippi and Florida to provide food and personal-care items for those in need, King added. The organization, he continued, assisted with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and floods in Georgia in 2009.
Rhonda Miller, director of marketing for We Care Ministries, said 2010 has been particularly successful for the organization, and that 82 new donors have been added to the group's rolls since May.
She said that a group of employees at a Walmart store in Lovejoy, came Sept. 23, to the warehouse at We Care Ministries to volunteer. The store employees, she said, loaded 3,012 boxes of food, totaling 80,000-90,000 pounds, into cars for the ministry.
Jennifer Floyd, personnel manager and community coordinator for the Walmart store, said volunteering at We Care Ministries was part of a collective desire by employees, to "give back to the community."
"It was a local organization, and that's who we felt we needed to help at this time," Floyd said.
Tracy Smith, the director of operations for We Care Ministries, which operates an 8,500-square-foot warehouse, said she began volunteering with the non-profit organization while she was running a paint business full-time. Smith said her commitment to the charity grew after her business fell on hard times, and she experienced the need to call on We Care for help. "When I was hurting financially, it helped my family to stay afloat," said Smith. "In return, I've been able to help other people that are struggling."
The group provides items for more than 300 ministries and organizations, locally, each week, the operation's director said. "It really goes further than that, because those people help people," said Smith. "So really, it helps about 2,000 people on a weekly basis."
Brenda Kelly, of Hampton, began donating her time at We Care Ministries last year, after participating in past volunteer efforts with Smith. Kelly said she enjoys seeing the reactions of those whom she has been able to assist through the organization.
"It's good to help people," said Kelly. "Everyone so appreciates you when they come in. They can't thank you enough. It puts a smile on your face."