Suwannee Democrat

Jasper News

January 18, 2013

Feed-A-Family helps hundreds in Jasper

Jasper — Catholic Charities Feed-A-Family Mobile Outreach Program out of Lake City made an emergency unscheduled stop in Jasper on Wednesday, Jan. 9, with nearly 500 Hamilton County residents turning out to accept almost 8,000 pounds of donated food.

The outreach program returned on Jan. 16, with another 4,000 pounds of food, consisting of frozen hamburger and sausage patties, rice, canned beans, breads and pastries. Volunteer Jim Johnston said he started volunteering one day a week and gradually as time went by he found himself volunteering five days a week as the program grew.

“This morning I had to go pick up the bread at Publix, and then load up and get down here,” said Johnston.

There were about 100 people in line already when Johnston arrived at the civic center. Among the other regular volunteers, Donna Carpenter from Lake City said this was her first time volunteering with Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Suzanne Edwards and her mobile outreach team, along with Kenny Altman, USDA representative for Hamilton County arrived in Jasper early Wednesday morning, Jan. 9, to deliver 7,900 pounds of food to 498 people who came out to the Jasper Civic Center. A total of 167 needy families were served.

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, Catholic Charities was notified that Florida Gateway Food Bank would be receiving a tractor trailer load of frozen USDA meats, which consisted of chicken and pork patties, as well as frozen orange juice. With not enough freezer space to accommodate about 300,000 pounds of frozen food, immediate action was needed in order to get the food out to those who needed it before it spoiled. Catholic Charities in Lake City serves five counties; Union, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette and Columbia.

In Hamilton County, thanks to quick responses on everyone’s part, a distribution location was secured at the Jasper Civic Center and then word got out to the public via the Jasper News website, Facebook, Twitter, telephone calls and just plain word of mouth.

At a moments notice Edwards said she and her team, “put their travel kit in CC mobile, Scott & Danny loaded the freezer truck, and we took the entire team and volunteers to the location.”

More than 100 people were already in line by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and when Edwards and her team arrived they were greeted by Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid and Emergency Management Director Henry Land, who offered whatever assistance was needed.

The civic center was immediately unlocked and tables and chairs were set up. Meanwhile, the team was busy setting up their tables outside by the refrigerated truck and intakes were handed out to those already in line.

“We need to support our people just as much as the people in the surrounding counties,” Land said. “Hamilton County deserves their share.”

“We definitely have an economic need here,” Sheriff Reid interjected.

Edwards had called Land the day before to ask if he had a proper location where they could distribute much needed frozen meats to the community. Land immediately contacted City Manager Charles Williams who authorized use of the civic center.

Williams said, “Basically, for not-for-profits, we allow them to use it free of charge. Anything that can help the community, we’re all for it.”

Land and his staff then placed emergency signs along downtown Hatley Street announcing Catholic Charities would be in town at 9 a.m. Wednesday, which impressed Edwards.

“Everything remained orderly and in 95 minutes we gave out 7,900 pounds of food to 498 people that made up 167 families,” said Edwards. “Not only did I have the emergency operations director, sheriff, county and city manager personally come by to thank us and welcome us, but they have offered these facilities and office space free of charge as needed.”

The Catholic Charities Feed-A-Family Mobile Outreach Program, Edwards said, has been welcomed and folded into the government family in Hamilton County.

“As a result of today, the county and city manager have asked me to be the key speaker on agenda this Monday evening, of which I gladly agreed,” Edwards said. “Additionally, two applications to become a member of our Florida Gateway Food Bank were given out to two local pastors who attended.”

All in all, Edwards said, their mission was fulfilled.

“Thank you to all of you for continuing to be supportive to thinking outside of the box with us as we meet the needs as they arise,” said Edwards.

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