JONESVILLE — Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministries was on the edge of a bleak holiday season, but a large amount of donations has brought hope back from the brink.
Shelves were empty at the food pantry, leaving staffers to fear the worst as Thanksgiving and Christmas approached. But more than one ton of food was collected Saturday from local grocery store shoppers, making those fears a thing of the past.
All totaled, the crisis ministry collected 2,304 pounds of non-perishable food items.
“I was excited. The more they kept pulling stuff out of the trucks and moving vehicles up … we have never seen this much. This is a wonderful blessing for our community and for Tri-County Ministry,” Tri-C Executive Director Heather Macy said. “Just to have so many people think about others this time of year — especially remember us and the need we are trying to fill in the community.”
VFW Post 7749 worked with local grocery stores to collect donations from shoppers. Collection stations were set up at the doors leading into Food Lion in Elkin and Jonesville, Ingles in Elkin, and Dollar General in Elkin, Jonesville, Hamptonville and Boonville.
Donations were accepted between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., then taken to Tri-C’s collection hub in Jonesville for weighing.
Each store was manned by veterans from Post 7749.
“We’re always looking for a community project, and when Tri-C needed that we decided that would be one of our projects,” Jack Gentry of Post 7749 said.
The vets welcomed customers as they entered the stores and told them about the operation. Shoppers responded by buying extra items during their trip and donating bags of non-perishable goods as they left.
The canned and boxed goods will go to the needy across three counties and 10 zip codes. The pantry serves parts of Yadkin, Surry and Wilkes counties.
Gentry and fellow veteran Dickie Southard were in charge of collections at Food Lion in Elkin.
The two have worked together for the past few years to collect donations there.
Gentry, a former Marine, joked that the two had a lot of fun and got a long well — as long as Army vet Southard didn’t put down the Corps.
Southard said the collections were higher than normal for the store.
On average, the two usually collect two and a half shopping carts full of food. This year they had four buggies worth.
Veterans Charles Fletcher, Frank Young and Harold Holcomb were in charge of Ingles in Elkin. The three already had a van full of groceries before noon and had filled another buggy by lunch.
Some shoppers opted to donate money instead, something the vets said was more than welcome.
The ministry partners with Second Harvest Food Bank in Winston-Salem to purchase additional food with the money. The two are able to buy more food through wholesale channels and give even more to hungry citizens.
The ministry remains in critical need even with the donations provided Saturday.
The pantry serves about 20 families a day: sometimes less; sometimes as many as 27. Macy estimated the food collected Saturday will be distributed and back out into the community in roughly two weeks.
“What we see here is a lot of single parents and senior adults, that are trying to take every bit of whatever they have, or whatever assistance they have, and make it stretch as far as they can,” Macy said. “Those people tend to come in quite a bit.
“In the same breath, those are the people who don’t want to be here,” Macy said. “They’re not asking for a handout, for sure … They have to have that nutritious food to keep them healthy, to keep them on the right track.”
The organization also collects and distributes toiletries like deodorant and toothpaste.
Macy said many people do not realize that food stamps can only be used for edible items: a person cannot buy one toothbrush or roll of toilet paper, even if they have $500 in food stamps.
Macy said the efforts of organizations like the VFW were key in bringing in more donations. The time of the year — holidays, for instance — has a lot to do with the amount given.
“I think a lot of it is you just remember more. You’re reminded more of others,” Macy said. “Because you’re already buying gifts for other people, you’re thinking about other people, so you’re in the store more often and you’re already in that mindset to think of someone outside your immediate family.”
Those in the holiday spirit who would like to donate can bring items by Tri-C in Jonesville during their business hours. The center is open on Monday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.
The building is located at 440 W. Main St. in Jonesville.
Money donations can be sent to P.O Box 511 in Elkin.
Reach Taylor Pardue at 835-1513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.