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Filling Immediate Needs

He looked at the shelves of canned vegetables, bottles of juice and boxed cereals and nodded his head, partly in satisfaction at the work done so far, partly in determination as he faces the work ahead.

     “There’s a lot of hungry people in Lincoln County,” said Stanford Qualls.

     But he knows the food pantry and the volunteers at Bethel A.M.E. Church are up to the task.

     The Bethel A.M.E. food pantry began earlier this year in January. It resulted from the vision and hard work of two men from the church, Qualls and Embry Webb.

     Once the two men began talking about the idea, things began to happen quickly.

     “It only took about a month to get everything ready,” Qualls said.

     Though there are a number of food pantries in the county, Qualls and Webb felt the need they saw around them called for another ministry to help alleviate hunger.

     Further, Qualls believes it’s important that people in need of a food pantry have one available nearby.

     Many elderly people served by the Bethel food pantry don’t have a way to transport themselves very far, Webb said.

     So, serving their community is what the men set out to do. Webb estimates about 60 percent of the people they serve come from the immediate area around the church on South First Street.

     After not even one year of operation, the pantry has already exceeded the initial goals.

     The original plan was to serve about 40 or so families a month, Qualls said. In November, the pantry served 76 families and a total of about 200 people.

     “Each day we’re open, more people are coming,” Qualls said.

     That success hasn’t come by waiting around for it, though. Qualls and Webb estimate that for each day the food pantry is open, the pair spends about three days in preparations.

     A core group of about nine volunteers also helps keep the food pantry going.

     “You have to want to do it,” Webb said.

     This holiday season, though, the pantry is also looking to receive a little outside assistance.

     Local residents can partner with Bethel A.M.E. and other local food pantries.

     One of Lincoln County’s newest food pantries is now the newest addition to the holiday food pantry drive hosted by The Daily Leader and the Bank of Brookhaven.

     By donating to the holiday food pantry drive at the offices of either The Daily Leader or Bank of Brookhaven, residents can help give a much-needed Christmas boost to local food pantries.

     Aside from Bethel, food pantries at the Greater Hope Foundation, the Martha Sykes Center, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Paul M.B, Church and Union Hall Baptist Church.

     Quall and Webb mostly purchase the food for the Bethel pantry food from the Mississippi Food Network with donations from church members. Holiday food pantry funds will help augment the church’s assistance.

     The pantry is open about two days a month and it provides food on an emergency basis.

     After Hurricane Isaac, the church was able to reach out to families without power that lost all the food in their freezer and refrigerator. The pantry also recently provided emergency help to a family that lost their home in a fire.

     Whether helping on an emergency or ongoing basis, Quall and Webb feel good about their work with the pantry.

     “It’s rewarding, because we’re filling a need,” Qualls said.