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Christmas giveaway serves 400 local families

About 50 area residents volunteered in the Ninth Annual Christmas Giveaway at Feed My People Food Pantry and Thrift Store in Stockbridge.

About 50 area residents volunteered in the Ninth Annual Christmas Giveaway at Feed My People Food Pantry and Thrift Store in Stockbridge.

Morrow resident, Herschel Sanders, was one among 50 volunteers taking part in an annual food-and-supplies distribution event for those in need.

Sanders reflected on times in the late 1960s, when his parents and siblings relied upon charities, like the Ninth Annual Christmas Giveaway hosted by the non-profit 4Rivers Ministries International, Inc./Feed My People Food Pantry and Thrift Store, in Stockbridge.

“We got our Christmas from Goodwill and The Salvation Army,” said Sanders, who volunteered for Friday’s distribution on behalf of Franks Chapter 51 of the Royal Arch Masons of Stockbridge.

“So, I think it’s wonderful to be able to help out now,” he added. “I think it’s a worthwhile effort. I’m glad I’ve reached the point where I can return what other people have given to us. I’ve been in line before, now I’m able to contribute to the line.”

The event served 400 families in Clayton and Henry counties, according to Allyson Lewis, director of 4Rivers Ministries. She said most of the families (about 370) were regular clients with the food pantry and thrift store.

Lewis acknowledged primary donors, who included: Pepsi Co., Clorox, Home Depot, Pottery Barn, JCPenney, and Sam’s Club. The companies donated products and apparel.

“It doesn’t end here,” said Lewis, noting the non-profit’s year-round needs.

But, for this fall’s efforts, she pointed to local students as major contributors. Pupils at Woodland High School in Stockbridge collected more than 7,600 canned goods for the organization, according to Allison Viores, Woodland’s community service learning coordinator. She is also a food-and-nutrition sciences teacher.

Viores helped coordinate a school-level canned food drive, which lasted from Nov. 1, to Dec. 16. She said her community-service learning class of 45 students participate in school-and community-based service projects throughout the year. The class has taken part in such projects as PiNK Month and Henry County’s revamped “Community Cares Toy Shop” Community Christmas Program.

“This year, we took over the canned-food drive from our Student Government Association and got a little creative,” said Viores. “I had heard of another school doing a similar project feathering a turkey, but for a different cause.”

Viores said she pitched the idea to fellow teachers, and invited them to carry the idea through to fruition, to address some community needs during the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving.

“Students painted boxes for teachers’ classrooms, made posters, cut out feathers and cartoon turkeys, collected cans, stacked cans ... in our display cases, and even helped load the cans when the food bank came to collect,” she said. “E-mails were sent to a parent-distribution list; the morning announcements [on closed circuit] PACK-TV did a couple of skits to help us promote our drive as well. It was definitely a well-organized and well-loved event, which was evident by the support students showed.”

Adult volunteers filled the parking lot Friday at the Feed My People Food Pantry and Thrift Store, as vehicles continuously filtered in from the nearby highway to collect the donated food, supplies, and clothing.

Joe Edwards, a junior warden with the Masons Eureka Lodge 354 in Stockbridge, volunteered time with three others from the community service organization. “It’s a wonderful thing,” Edwards said. “We support our communities. It’s time well spent.”

Fellow volunteer, Cindy Arndt, said she has donated food before. Arndt is the president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080, in Lake City. She and two others represented the auxiliary at Friday’s distribution.

“There is a lot of fellowship, a lot of smiles, and a lot of tears from people being so appreciative,” said Arndt. “They’re struggling. God bless them. We’re here for them.”

LeeAnn McCoy said she was grateful for the opportunity to serve others in need. McCoy is a fleet specialist with Schneider National, a Kincaid, Wisc.-based company with a local dedication office in Stockbridge. She said she learned about the Feed My People Food Pantry and Thrift Store by researching charities online.

“We found out last week that they needed a trailer to store some food on,” said McCoy, noting that the local Schneider office had been collecting donations of canned goods for the food pantry up until about a week ago. The office collected 1,500 cans.

“To see this is amazing,” she continued. “It’s a good feeling. It’s so easy to sight on what the holidays are really about. This is what they are about, helping the community.”

Elsewhere, in Stockbridge, the Helping in His Name Ministries, Inc., Food Pantry has bolstered support for needy families through various local food drives this fall.

Helping in His Name, as with Feed My People, has collected from food drives at churches, businesses and schools. The effort will continue through the end of the month, according to food pantry volunteers. “It’s been a good drive for us this year,” said David Hansen, the non-profit organization’s volunteer food drive coordinator. “It brought in some food that was really needed. The need is increasing incrementally.

“It doesn’t take a lot of time to be of help, and every little bit helps,” continued Hansen. “The community that pulls together, succeeds together.”

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4Rivers Ministries International, Inc.: