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Food pantries in need
Donations sought to help with crunch of holiday season

COVINGTON - Local food pantries are feeling the rush of the holiday season, and with supplies dwindling, they can't keep up.

Volunteers say this is the time of year when more people ask for assistance, and they're depending on the community to fill the shelves.

"We haven't went completely empty yet. We're getting close, but we're still hanging in there," said Rosalee Thompson, director of the Newton County Community Food Pantry.

Thompson said the number of people seeking assistance has increased since last year. Many people are out of work while others are struggling to pay utility bills, she said.

The pantry, located at 1114 Brown St., is open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday and Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

In conjunction with the Newton County Ministers Union, the pantry is also seeking donations for its annual Thanksgiving dinner, set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Sharp Learning Center cafeteria on Thanksgiving Day.

Needed are gallon cans of corn, green beans, cranberry sauce and potatoes, as well as pre-browned rolls, desserts and Kool-Aid and lemonade.

Volunteers are also needed to serve food. Anyone interested should arrive at Sharp by 10 a.m. Thursday. Those who would like to help with preparation should arrive at Sharp at noon Wednesday.

For more information, call the Food Pantry at 770-784-0037.

Supplies have also been low at the Willing Helpers Food Pantry, located behind Solid Rock Baptist Church at 8111 Brown Bridge Road, according to Director Jack Vanderzwart.

"We just went through a valley, but the Lord has blessed us very well," Vanderzwart said, adding that while the dry goods supply is in good shape, the pantry is lacking in canned goods.

Vanderzwart said the pantry serves between 75 to 100 families a day and about 50 additional families on Thursday night.

"Our numbers have been lower, up until about a month ago. I really don't know why. With gas prices going up, you would have thought the numbers would go up but that seems to keep as many people home as it brings out," he said.

But with the holidays around the corner, demand is picking up, he said.

The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday night.

For more information, call 678-342-3434.

At the Salvation Army's food pantry at 5193 Washington St., SW, "We're having a hard time," said Director Jody Carver.

"People have brought in lots of good stuff, but we're going through it pretty fast for the holiday season," Carver said.

The pantry is especially in need of canned meats and rice and noodles.

"I think with gas prices going up and the job market, everybody is still in a crunch," Carver said. "A lot of people that normally donated have not been able to this year, and are actually in need of it (themselves)."

The pantry accepts nonperishable items but will also accept hams and turkeys during the holidays.

The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 770-786-2107.

Carver also reminded the public that if they see the Salvation Army's bell ringers out to be sure to make a donation. The bell ringers took to their post for the first time Wednesday and will be outside area businesses throughout the holidays.

Money collected goes to purchase toys for needy children, purchase food for the pantry and assist additional families.

Right now, "We're turning away more than we can keep," Carver said, adding that the organization is turning away about 10 families per day.

In Rockdale County, the Rockdale Community Food Bank is having a communitywide food drive to make sure shelves are stocked throughout the holidays.

Though the pantry was "looking rather empty several weeks ago," supplies are now bolstered thanks to donations from the community and several local schools, according to Executive Director Ashley Roesler.

"We do need the community support all year round, especially during the holidays. We do experience more people coming in here, whether there's more need, or they're more aware of the need during this time. We get great support from the community, but we can never have enough," she said.

The food pantry accepts nonperishable items Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The pantry is located at the entrance to Tall Oaks Apartments at 350 Tall Oaks Drive off Iris Drive.

For more information, call 770-922-1366.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.