COVINGTON - The Newton County Community Food Pantry will reopen Monday thanks to donations from the community.

Director Rosalee Thompson told the Citizen last week that shelves were bare at the pantry for only the second time in more than 20 years due to unprecedented demand.

But the generosity of individuals, churches and schools has the shelves about halfway full again. Thompson is hopeful she has enough supplies to last through Thanksgiving.

"I want to thank each and every one, the churches, the individuals, whoever you are, we thank you," Thompson said.

The Newton County School System did its part to help out, holding a two-week can drive to benefit the Community Food Pantry and the pantry at the Salvation Army.

"We hold a can-a-thon every year but we decided to go a little earlier this year because of the need in the community," said George Hutchinson, a social worker with the school system.

Students in elementary through high school participated.

Hutchinson did not have estimates of how much was collected, but "It went real well from everything that I've heard," he said.

The Food Pantry is located at 7125 Turner Lake Circle. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday and Thursday and from 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

Donations are still being accepted. For more information, call 770-784-0037.

While other food pantries seem to have been hard hit by overwhelming demands and lack of resources, the Willing Helpers Food Pantry behind Solid Rock Baptist Church on Brown Bridge Road has been able to continue to operate, serving between 75 to 100 people a day, director Jack Vanderzwart said.

"The Lord has been very good to us and opened a lot of doors. We are faith-based, and we want to feed people spiritually as well as physically," he said, adding that counselors were at the location to talk and pray with individuals about their difficulties.

He pointed out that while several churches give support to the ministry, they are also dependent on an $8 fee they charge for a week's groceries. By charging this fee, the pantry is ineligible to receive food from the Atlanta Food Bank, and they depend on donations from businesses such as Bell's Grocery and from interested individuals.

The ministry also supports a thrift shop and a free medical clinic for the uninsured.

The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday night. Those who desire to shop there should bring a photo ID with them and expect to be registered for a once-a-week visit.

Vanderzwart said if someone does not have the $8 fee, they will prepare a free box that would serve two people for approximately two days.

"My heart is for kids, so we encourage donation of things like ravioli and mac and cheese - things kids can fix for themselves after school if Mom is still at work," he said.

Also, the pantry dispenses mainly non-perishable food items.

"Our thinking is if we can save people some money on those things, maybe they can afford to buy the high-ticket items such as meat, cheese, milk and things like that," he said.

The pantry accepts donations of non-perishable foods and is also in need of volunteers.

For more information or to volunteer, call 678-342-3434.

News editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this story.

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