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Food pantry drive eyes holiday help

Two locally owned businesses with deep community ties are joining together once again to help make a merry Christmas for local food pantries and their patrons.

     For a ninth year, The DAILY LEADER and Bank of Brookhaven are sponsoring a fundraising drive to ensure local food pantries remain well stocked at a high need time of year.

     Donations to the food drive can be made beginning today at the office of either business up until Dec. 14. All donations received will be split equally among five local food pantries.

     This year, recipient ministries and nonprofits include St. Francis of Assisi/St. Vincent de Paul, Union Hall Baptist Church, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, the Martha Sykes Windows and Orphans Center and the Greater Hope Foundation.

     DAILY LEADER Publisher Bill Jacobs and Bank of Brookhaven Vice President Shannon Aker both emphasized that as leaders of companies rooted in Brookhaven, they want to help put back into the area.

     “As locally owned companies, we want to help out local people and the local community,” Jacobs said.

     Said Aker, “We want to be the best corporate citizens we can be at the bank. That’s why this is important for us.”

     Both sponsoring businesses have written checks for $250 apiece to kick off the donation drive.

     Through the duration of the 2012 food pantry drive, a tally of donations received and the names of donors will be kept on the front page of The DAILY LEADER, though donors may remain anonymous if they wish.

     This year, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church is new to the lineup of recipients, and the extra cash will come at a time when the pantry’s resources are being heavily relied on.

     “We’ve been extending the hours recently because of the need,” said Sue Smith, a church volunteer.

     Normally, the St. Paul pantry is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but Smith said recent demand has required the pantry also be open on Mondays and Thursdays.

     The last two years of the food pantry drive have been big ones, with 2010 and 2011 both setting records for most money collected in the history of the pantry drive. Last year’s total, and the current record, was $11,153.

     The success of the food drive says something about the character of the people who live in Brookhaven and Lincoln County, Jacobs said.

     “That shows the generosity of the community,” he said. “It’s a message about the area.”

     Aker spotlighted that tight economic conditions haven’t dampened a giving spirit in Lincoln County.

     “Year in, year out, it amazes me, especially with the economy,” Aker said.

     On the whole, though, he’s not really surprised.

     “I’ve always read and seen numbers that Mississippi is a very generous state,” Aker said.

     The DAILY LEADER and Bank of Brookhaven launched the food pantry drive in 2005 and have held the fundraiser every year since except one. In the eight years of the food drive, $62,234 in local donations has been collected.