Published April 30, 2020
JACKSON–On Saturday, April 18, the Jackson, Georgia St. Vincent de Paul Society conference, with the support of the parish’s Knights of Columbus, hosted a Drive-In Food Pantry at their home base, St. Mary Mother of God Church. The event began at 1 p.m., but by 10 a.m. families had already arrived to wait in the staging area. By noon, the number of cars lined up nearly exceeded the number of food baskets on hand.
Previously, and in more normal times, the Butts County group has assisted with needs for essentials like utilities, gasoline cards, home repair projects, and as resources allow, rent. On this day, however, the conference focused on families’ most basic need–food.
Many of the families served shared that they were unemployment casualties of the shelter-in-place orders. Some had never been in financial crisis, so they had no provisions of state assistance, like food stamps. It was the first time many of them turned to strangers for help.
With collection site donations at the local Ingles supermarket, financial contributions from previous parish collections, meat donations from Milestone Foods and a grant from the state SVdP office, St. Mary’s conference was able to serve 60 families.
“As our members loaded groceries into the trunks and back seats of cars, they provided encouragement and God’s blessings,” said Gwen Willeford, the chapter’s spiritual advisor. “But in truth, we were the ones blessed. Our resources are few, but God has always provided for us, so that we can provide for others. It’s like that Bible verse that talks about the loaves and fish. When charity and love for our neighbors is the center of purpose, God always provides the way.”
With announcements made through the local newspaper, the parish’s Facebook page, streamed announcements and parishioners’ word of mouth, the group was not sure what to expect but planned well. They prepared 52 baskets, which were picked up, and another eight families were served via grocery gift cards. By day’s end there was no surplus, but no one was turned away.
Several people made cash donations the day of the event, and a representative from SVdP Georgia doubled-up on a $2,500 donation, allowing the conference to plan two more drive-in events on May 2 and another in June.
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