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On A Mission To Help

She looks forward to the faces, their eyes and smiles most of all.

     Gwen Dyess runs the Union Hall Baptist Church food pantry, and when she provides food for a family, she looks to the children for her reward.

     All it takes, she’s found, is something as simple as a box of cereal or a small toy to brighten a child’s day.

     “I get the joy of seeing their faces,” Dyess said. “The eyes tell it all.”

     Dyess has been in charge of the Union Hall food pantry about six years now. She does most of the work herself, buying the groceries, stocking the shelves and distributing the food, and she doesn’t foresee slowing down.

     “God gives me a lot of energy,” she said.

     It helps that she continues to find pleasure in the work, year after year.

     “I really do enjoy it,” she said. “I enjoy meeting the people.”

     Things have been a little slow lately, with only about six served in November. Demand has picked up in December, though, and the total for the year currently stands at about 60 or 70 families served, Dyess said.

     That’s been a typical level of demand over the life of the Union Hall food pantry, which is one of Lincoln County’s smaller pantries.

     But big or small, the pantry is there, and Dyess is too whenever she’s called.

     “If there’s a need, I’ll help,” she said.

     But this time of the year, Dyess and other local food pantries look to the community for help. The Daily Leader and the Bank of Brookhaven are currently hosting their ninth annual fundraising drive for local food pantries.

     Donations will be accepted at the office of either business through Dec. 14. All money collected will be evenly divided among five local food pantries, including Union Hall.

     Other recipient pantries and ministries include St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, the Martha Sykes Center and the Greater Hope Foundation.

     Last year, the pantry drive collected more than $11,000 for local food pantries.

     “That was so nice,” Dyess said. “Brookhaven people are so generous.”

     The donations will be needed since winter usually brings with it peak demand at the pantry.

     “Summers are very slow,” Dyess said.

     However, there’s always at least some demand. After Hurricane Isaac, Dyess was able to give groceries to a woman who lost everything in her freezer.

     And regardless of how high or low demand is, Dyess relies on donations of food and money to keep the pantry shelves stocked.

     The church also usually hosts two food drives throughout the year.

     All the work is worth it, though, and Dyess calls the food pantry a blessing for the entire church. And, for her, it’s much more than that.

     Said Dyess, “This is my mission.”