Rosalee a dedicated Food Pantry tweny five year volunteer here this Thursday morning stocking shelves in the food pantry before it opens this morning. The donation comes from SistahFriend Book Club in Covington.
COVINGTON -- The Book of Proverbs describes a virtuous woman as one who "extends her hand to the poor; and stretches out her hands to the needy." By those standards Rosalee Thompson is virtuous indeed.
Thompson, 72, has worked for the Community Food Pantry for 25 years and now serves as director of the organization. Those who have seen the hard work that she's put in will celebrate those 25 years Sunday with a reception in her honor.
"Rosalee has been there since the day the food pantry opened. She was right there on the ground floor," said the Rev. Billy Wade, chairman of The Community Food Pantry of Newton County board. "She's been so faithful all of these years. She knows so many people in the community and she has helped form the special community of volunteers out there who have given so much of their time to help their brothers and sisters in this county."
Accolades also came from Bob Furnad, founding chairman of FaithWorks, who said the term "dedicated" is hardly adequate to express the way Thompson approaches serving those who are in great need.
"She's tireless, full of love and her goodness knows no end," he said
Most Newton Countians have never had to make a trip to the Food Pantry, but for those who have -- approximately 1,000 last year -- they've been met with kindness and courtesy by Thompson. This past Thursday she took in 21 applications for assistance.
A native of South Dakota, Thompson and her late husband, Charles, came to the Covington area in 1985. She is the mother of three grown children who still live there.
After moving to the area, she went to work at Bard, but was laid off. She needed something to do, so she showed up as a volunteer for the opening of the Food Pantry.
"The next day they needed someone to open it and I said, 'I'll be here,'" she recalled. "I just kept coming and kept coming and they said we've got to do something for Rosalee. She's here every day." She's never left, volunteering herself into a full-time job.
She remembers the heartache she's witnessed from those who've lost their home and belongings, not to mention their food, to fire or flood and the countless who've come because they're unemployed or fallen ill. She recalled one instance of a family who'd been devastated when the father ran over the mother.
"She was deceased and they put him in jail and the grandparents got the children," she said. "I think there were four or five children, but they've raised them and they're growing up. That's probably the hardest one."
Because of space and logistics, the process for receiving food from the Food Pantry is to fill out paperwork one day and come back the next day to get the food, which is packaged by Rosalee and volunteers according to each family's needs.
"Some of them say, what do we do until tomorrow? Some of them are really sincere and some are just greedy. I can kinda pick them out, and I'll tell them they'll just have to wait until tomorrow," she said. "But these others who look like they're going to cry, I'll tell them I'll give them something to last until in the morning -- something for supper and something for breakfast. Even some men will be about ready to cry. I know they hate to go home and tell their wife they couldn't get anything until tomorrow."
Thompson wanted to talk more about those who help out the Food Pantry than herself -- restaurants like Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kroger, churches, school food drives, the United Way, and faithful volunteers, some in their 80s and 90s. But Sunday's celebration will be about the contribution Thompson has made to the community.
She did want to encourage individuals to donate food items, even if it is a small amount as she said the faltering economy has affected donations.
"I tell people to just give whatever they can spare because that will be more than we had before," she said. "We'll add that to somebody else's donation and they'll be able to make a meal."
The reception in Thompson's honor will be held at FaithWorks, next door to the Community Food Pantry at 7129 Turner Lake Circle from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
For more information about the Food Pantry, call 770-784-0037.