Downtown Augusta food pantry sees more need, less funding

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By 10:30 a.m. Friday, the line stretches down the sidewalk in front of Downtown Coop­erative Church Mini­stries, the largest food pantry in Richmond County. The doors open at 11 a.m., but clients like Martha Ward know bags of food are limited. Arriving a minute later could mean going hungry for the week.

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Volunteers Anna Mae Williams and Nelson Hamilton bag frozen chicken to be handed out at Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries in Augusta.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Volunteers Anna Mae Williams and Nelson Hamilton bag frozen chicken to be handed out at Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries in Augusta.

“If it weren’t for these people here, I don’t know what I would do,” Ward said. “I look forward to coming down here every week for my food.”

The food pantry, supported by 14 partner churches, used to serve all the clients who walked or rode the bus to get there. But money shortages, increases in food costs and more clients are forcing volunteers to turn people away.

“It’s really a heartbreaking thing to turn people away but it’s just something we’re forced to do,” said LaKeya Stewart, the executive director.

Ward, who quit her job a few months ago because of health problems, and three neighbors from Harrisburg were some of the first in the door. They piled into a car with bags of frozen chicken, juice, English muffins, canned fruits and vegetables, and pistachios. They’re aware the bags have gotten lighter but are grateful as long as the ministry doesn’t close its doors completely.

“As long as I have food in my belly and a roof over my head, I’m blessed,” Ward said.

For the first two years of the economic recession, church donations and grants helped the pantry on Eighth Street meet needs while other charities across the nation and in Augusta were hit hard. A $9,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the CSRA helped Downtown Cooperative Church Mini­stries sustain funds during 2011 as church donations began to dwindle.

But there’s little relief in sight for the coming year.

The ministry was not eligible for the community grant again and efforts to reach out to local businesses have only put a dent in the problem.

“They’ve been responsive but still it’s not enough,” Stewart said. “We need support from the larger community.”

In 2011, the number of clients served increased by 60 percent and church donations dropped by 25 percent. Monthly costs rose by $1,500 to $4,000, she said.

Food donations are provided by the Golden Harvest Food Bank, but operation costs and additional needs won’t be met in 2012 if local businesses and individuals don’t step up to help the hungry.

“You can only ask a church to do so much,” said Joe Johnson, the board chairman and a member of Thankful Baptist Church. “The only thing we can do is rely on grants, individual people and churches stepping up their giving.”

The food pantry serves about 70 people per day and 7,000 families each year. Twenty dollars feeds a family of five.

“We need more people to help,” Stewart said. “You don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be a billionaire.”

HOW TO HELP

Mail monetary donations to Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries, P.O. Box 2482, Augusta, GA 30903. Make checks payable to Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries.

The food pantry receives regular food supplies from the Golden Harvest Food Bank. While canned goods are accepted, the most needed items are personal hygiene products, toiletries and diapers. Call (706) 722-3530 to arrange a drop-off.

Visit www.dccmaugusta.org for more information.

Comments (10) Add comment
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scoopdedoop64
2488
Points
scoopdedoop64 12/17/11 - 09:45 pm
0
0
Well, I for one am extremely

Well, I for one am extremely grateful for all these churches who help. Our church does the same thing with our food pantry and we give out each time. We should always give to the poor and feed the hungry as Jesus commanded. However, it's hard sometimes when you see same people week after week, month after month and yes year after year come for food. My goodness, you would think that at some point that some of these people would find a way to increase their income. That some would set up what ever services, food stamps, etc. and would not need to stand in line to get their free food. Some could get jobs. I have had some complain because we didn't give them choice foods and demand we give them a turkey when we have run out. Some won't even say "thank you". Some have food in their freezer and pantry but come to load up or sell it to others. Does this mean we should stop...no,no, no we can't because there are too many legitimately hungry and needy people to care for but it is hard at times when others abuse the care of others.

jic
352
Points
jic 12/18/11 - 07:19 am
0
0
The website explains food
Unpublished

The website explains food insecurity in more detail. Poor children and the elderly have very few options and constitute the majority of the clients here and at our church. Because the legitimate need is so great I refuse to let a few dishonest clients turn me into a cynic. There's too much of that going around today. Most of the kids are being raised by their grandparents. Most of the elderly who come to our church pantry are very grateful and say so. Many have worked all their lives and have pride and dignity. Many of them are faced with choosing between food and getting their medications. They don't deserve criticism because their abilities are different, they're old, or they fell on hard times. The dishonest ones only hurt themselves and their neighbor, not the pantries.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 12/18/11 - 08:06 am
0
0
I believe we can all agree,

I believe we can all agree, there are those who abuse any free system and there are those who are truly in need help. We must continue to help those who need it and pray for those who abuse the assistance.

jic, I'm not sure if your comment was in general or directed towards scoop but I don't believe criticism of the elderly is what scoop was referring to. I believe it is the healthy, able-bodied, individuals who continue to use the service and not help themselves to improve their standards.

The dishonest ones do hurt the pantries (IMO) because they end up taking food from some family who may actually be in need. I think it is important that the word gets out that the pantries are low and that this ministry needs us to step it up a notch. I know it has convicted me to do more.

jic
352
Points
jic 12/18/11 - 08:41 am
0
0
Nope. Pretty much agree with
Unpublished

Nope. Pretty much agree with scoop. But there are those who have become paralyzed by a defeatist attitude due to the dishonest clients and it is better not to focus on them. I've seen good volunteers quit for the wrong reasons. The food pantries are hurting because of lack of donations and food prices and an increase in need, not a few bad apples.

jic
352
Points
jic 12/18/11 - 08:54 am
0
0
btw, "able-bodied" implies
Unpublished

btw, "able-bodied" implies work today requires simple physical fitness and ignores the fact that "skill" and "ability" is more important. Those with marginal abilities are genuinely handicapped for reasons easy to ignore. Regardless of "ability" would you say that anyone who does an honest day's work deserves enough pay to feed their family a healthy diet and have access to affordable healthcare? Would you say children in this country deserve good nutrition regardless of where it comes from? Would you say the elderly, who have worked all their lives and payed into social security and medicare deserve NOT to be hungry in old age?

Riverman1
93233
Points
Riverman1 12/18/11 - 09:06 am
0
0
JIC, the problem when you get

JIC, the problem when you get into what people "deserve" is to give them what they believe they deserve, you have to take from others. The fact is no one deserves anything, but what they earn, no more, no less.

jic
352
Points
jic 12/18/11 - 12:26 pm
0
0
And Lord knows, in spite of
Unpublished

And Lord knows, in spite of the ever-growing wage gap....when do we finally admit that for some, making/taking money is an addiction, not a need?

soldout
1283
Points
soldout 12/18/11 - 02:11 pm
0
0
If they were taught from

If they were taught from childhood to cheerly give God 10% and save 10% they might not be in those food lines. The Bible says the poor will be with you always and some folks can't be fixed because they don't want to be fixed. The quality of much of the food given is very poor and doesn't have much nutrition. Much of it is dead and full of chemicals. Some say good food costs too much. The best example I ever heard of how much we waste by buying and giving juke food is this: See how many people can eat a $12 pizza and how many can eat 12 dollars worth of brown rice. Good nutrition is cheap when compared to junk and over processed dead food. We don't have a poverty problem in this country we have an attitude problem. If everyone gave a 100% effort in their life there would be few left that are really poor and society could handle that easily.

Riverman1
93233
Points
Riverman1 12/18/11 - 02:16 pm
0
0
Imagine what an accumulated

Imagine what an accumulated half million could do with this program for this Christmas.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 12/18/11 - 04:18 pm
0
0
jic, when I referred to

jic, when I referred to "able-bodied" I wasn't excluding those who may have physical handicaps. By able-bodied I was refering to those who can work but wont due to complacency or laziness. I agree with you that one that does an honest day's work (whatever their capabilites are) are deserving, and the elderly and needy children, need to be taken care of.

"I've seen good volunteers quit for the wrong reasons. The food pantries are hurting because of lack of donations and food prices and an increase in need, not a few bad apples."

jic, if a volunteer quits for the wrong reasons wouldn't you agree that they don't need to be there in the first place and not there for the right reason. As for "not a few bad apples", would you not agree that people who truly do not need asssitance, that continuously take, are hurting the food pantries. They are taking already low inventory that could help a needy family so in my opinion, those few bad apples can hurt the ministry.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 12/18/11 - 04:20 pm
0
0
Riverman1, I believe that

Riverman1, I believe that there are enough families in the Augusta area that if a consorted effort was given, there would be no shortage in these food pantries. What would it cost to pick up a few extra cans of vegetables or a extra box of cereal or bag of rice. Every week there are grocery stores that had buy one get one free items. It's just that society is so busy taking care of "ME" that they forget about the "YOU".

jic
352
Points
jic 12/19/11 - 08:18 am
0
0
icl, "They are taking already
Unpublished

icl, "They are taking already low inventory that could help a needy family so in my opinion, those few bad apples can hurt the ministry."

Yes I agree, it hurts. Just pointing out (because I'm a little Polly Anna) that I believe their cynicism hurts themselves more than it hurts the pantry. Because of honesty, generosity, integrity, and a work ethic the pantry will survive. Like Walmart survives but doesn't excuse the occasional thief. Well, I guess Walmart is a stretch of the metaphor!

dstewartsr
20393
Points
dstewartsr 12/19/11 - 09:03 am
0
0
"...jic, if a volunteer quits

"...jic, if a volunteer quits for the wrong reasons wouldn't you agree that they don't need to be there in the first place..."

Now you christers have approved lists of reasons for volunteering? That attitude right there is one of the reasons I found more worthy ways of volunteering; that, and the incredible smugness that goes with the average church volunteer. It's like a bad PTA, run by a clique of 'mean girls' and boys.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 12/19/11 - 09:14 am
0
0
dstewartsr, no there is not

dstewartsr, no there is not an approved list of reasons. The only reason should be that you wish to help the poor and needy. If someone with a disgunted attitude and does not wish to help, quit, then I'd say they don't need to be there in the first place. You don't have a servant attitude, then you don't need to be serving, cause in the end it's not about us. It's about serving the Lord and following His command to love one another.

And seriously, "Christers", and you want to talk about the smugness of church volunteers. "More worthy ways of volunteering", well lets just pat you on the back some more. Talk about ego.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 12/19/11 - 02:31 pm
0
0
I agree with ICL in that

I agree with ICL in that if we are not joyful in our service, it is a sure sign that God has not called us to it. He doesn't call us all to the same things, but if we ask His direction and we listen to Him, He has called us all to something.

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