Food pantries to benefit from donations

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 5, 2006

More than 485 people have approached St. Francis of AssisiCatholic Church’s St. Vincent DePaul Ministries for assistance withfood since January, and volunteers expect that number to riserapidly as Christmas nears.

“We’ll probably see more than 550 before the year is out,” saidMark Nettles, who staffs the ministry along with four othervolunteers. “Sometimes we can’t give out as many groceries as othertimes, but we’ve not failed to operate one day.”

St. Vincent DePaul Ministries is one of three local foodpantries which will benefit from community charitable effortsthrough the Holiday Food Pantry Fund established by The DAILYLEADER and the Bank of Brookhaven.

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Money raised during the campaign will aid food pantries atBrookhaven Outreach Ministries, St. Francis of Assisi/St. VincentDePaul Ministries and Union Hall Baptist Church.

Donations to the Holiday Food Pantry Fund may be made by anyone.Donations will be recognized daily in the newspaper. They can bemade in honor of a friend or loved one or can be madeanonymously.

“Anonymous gifts are welcome,” said Shannon Aker, senior vicepresident of Bank of Brookhaven. “The gift will still be published,but it will be labeled as anonymous. It’s a great way to rememberpeople during the holidays.”

“And it serves a desperate need in this community,” added BillJacobs, editor and publisher of The DAILY LEADER. “It could not bedone without the generous contributions of the community.”

Checks to the fund should be made payable to the Holiday FoodPantry Fund and will be accepted at either the bank’s BrookwayBoulevard location or at the newspaper office on North RailroadAvenue.

“This fundraiser does so much for us, and it’s a blessing, too,to see other churches give to it,” Nettles said.

To qualify for assistance at St. Vincent DePaul Ministries,clients can call the church to make arrangements to meet with avolunteer and receive the groceries, he said.

“That way we can schedule a time to talk with the people andpray with them,” Nettles said. “We want to talk to their spirit asmuch as meet their physical needs.”

By talking with the clients, he said, volunteers can keep thesense of hope alive and give them a sounding board from someone whois not judgmental and willing to help them through a rough time.Often, he said, people won’t talk about their fears or difficultieswith family members.

Although many food pantries have stringent requirements thatmust be met to qualify for the free food assistance, St. VincentDePaul will help anyone in need, Nettles said.

“We don’t look at it that way,” he said. “A person could havebeen hurt and, although they did well in the past, are not doingwell now because of the injury. They may just need a little help toget through a rough period.”

The Holiday Food Pantry Fund was created in 2003 and raised morethan $7,800 contributed by 76 individuals or businesses. More than$5,000 was raised in 2004. The 2005 campaign was canceled, however,after Hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana and Mississippiand caused extensive damage throughout the state.