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Food pantry drive is now underway

Food insecurity is a real problem during the holiday season, and the community can help — starting today. For the next three weeks, The Daily Leader and Bank of Brookhaven will collect money for local food pantries.

It has been 16 years since Bank of Brookhaven and The Daily Leader teamed up to organize the first Holiday Food Pantry Drive.

Since then, the drive has raised tens of thousands in funds, which is then split between various area food pantry organizations. This year, there are three — St. Francis of Assisi/St. Vincent de Paul, the Greater Hope Foundation and Bethel AME.

Shannon Aker, president of Bank of Brookhaven, said he didn’t grow up in Brookhaven, but he feels like it’s his hometown, a town that he has grown to understand has a giving heart.

“One thing I learned quick when I moved here, one we have some real characters — there are fun people here. A second thing, we have a lot of generous people here,” Aker said.

Starting today and continuing on for a full three weeks, donations will be accepted at both The Daily Leader and Bank of Brookhaven. Checks can be made out to Holiday Food Pantry. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602. They’ll also be accepted at the newspaper office front desk. Donations to the Holiday Food Pantry will be published in The Daily Leader as they come in.

Donors for the Holiday Food Pantry Drive have the option of donating in honor or memory of someone, anonymously, as a business or as an individual. The contributors’ names — unless requesting anonymity — and gift are publicized in the newspaper as they come in. A grand total of donations will be printed in each issue. Collection for the food drive will end Dec. 20.

Flora Kelly, a volunteer with the Greater Hope Foundation, said the holiday food drive was a blessing for their food pantry. The Greater Hope Foundation serves more than 200 families a month.

“We look forward to it every year because it helps us meet the need for the people that reach out,” she said. “It really does.”

Like the summer months, the need for food increases during the holidays. Many families rely on school breakfast and lunch for their children, and as children are released for Christmas break, those families have emergency food needs that local food pantries can serve.

Contributions to the Holiday Food Pantry also can be mailed to the bank, given to bank cashiers or donated through the drive-through windows.