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Pantry drive successful despite hard times

The money donated to the 2009 Holiday Food Pantry comes fromwallets across Lincoln County, and the groceries it buys will comefrom stores in Brookhaven.

For the hungry who will benefit, the blessing comes fromsomewhere higher.

“It’s just like a blessing straight out of God’s hands and intotheir mouths,” said Mark Nettles, spokesman and organizer for thefood pantry at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

Nettles on Tuesday praised the blessing he held in his hand, a$2,515 check – St. Francis of Assisi’s share of the $7,545 raisedin this year’s Holiday Food Pantry drive. Brookhaven OutreachMinistries and Union Hall Baptist Church received equal amounts fortheir food pantries as the annual fundraiser hosted by The DAILYLEADER and Bank of Brookhaven concluded.

The total raised in this year’s food pantry drive was about $900less than was raised in 2008, but none of the three food pantryrepresentatives complained.

Given the conditions of the economy throughout 2009, the totalwas still considered a breakthrough amount. And with those economicconditions prompting food pantries to serve unprecedented totals,the money is needed more than ever.

“I was kind of thinking it would probably be a little less thisyear, maybe much less, but the people of Brookhaven have stepped upto the plate, swung and hit a home run for those in need,” Nettlessaid.

Gwen Dyess, chairman of Union Hall Baptist Church’s food pantry,said the money would go toward replenishing the pantry’s shelves,which have seen a lot of action late this year.

While Union Hall serves the smallest number of needy through itsfood pantry, it is also the smallest ministry. The one-room pantryhas seen record numbers of guests in 2009 as jobs and means havedried up.

“We’re the smallest pantry, and we can operate all year longwith this,” she said.

Even at the area’s largest food pantry, Brookhaven OutreachMinistries, $2,500 goes a long way. The Rev. Jerry Durr, directorof the ministry, said the organization’s annual Christmas giveawayjust ended after more than 125 families cycled through for food,clothes and toys for the children.

“We spend a lot on food, and our shelves after Christmastime aredepleted,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out of work and a lotof people who need help.”

With the close of its sixth year of operation, the Holiday FoodPantry drive has raised and donated more than $41,000 to the localpantries since it began in 2003. The drive has operated every yearexcept 2005, when Hurricane Katrina forced a one-year hiatus.

“Our readers across Lincoln County and the surrounding areacontinue to impress us with their generosity, especially in thesetough economic times,” said DAILY LEADER Publisher Bill Jacobs. “Weappreciate the generous help of the Bank of Brookhaven, who hasbeen a co-sponsor of this program since 2003. It is the communityinvolvement by businesses like this local company that makesBrookhaven and this area so successful.”

Bank of Brookhaven Vice President Shannon Aker said he was alsosurprised and proud of the high total raised this year, pointingout the true spirit of Christmas – giving, not receiving – wasrecognized in the Holiday Food Pantry drive.

“It’s definitely something somebody does because they want to doit. It’s not like a telethon where you’re calling people,” he said.”It’s strictly a thing where people come in and say, ‘Hey, I wantto give to that.'”