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Falcons tackle hunger with food for seniors

POSTED: September 11, 2013 12:27 a.m.

Atlanta Falcons running back Josh Vaughan boxes food at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank as he and several Atlanta Falcons players joined dozens of volunteers sorting and boxing donated food to be delivered to senior citizens at St. John Baptist Church and the Senior Life Center in Gainesville.

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Cheryl Carter got a box of food from the Georgia Mountain Food Bank and a hug from an Atlanta Falcons football player Tuesday at the Gainesville-Hall Senior Life Center.

“It’s really a big shock to me,” Carter said. “But we’ve never had anything like this before.”

About a dozen football players had gathered a few hours earlier at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank to unpack, sort and repackage the food for those who need it. This is the first time the players have participated at the Gainesville location. The Food Bank’s new 20,000-square-foot facility opened about a year ago.

The Georgia Mountain Food Bank acts as the logistical hub for the Atlanta Food Bank. It collects, briefly stores and distributes food to local banks that, in turn, hand the food out to the needy. Georgia Mountain serves Hall, Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin and Union counties.

Falcons center Peter Konz said he knows some children depend on free breakfasts and lunches sometimes to get fed. His wife teaches fifth grade at Lanier Elementary School in Hall County.

Konz was helping to sort through boxes and make up packages of supplies for seniors.

The family lived in Oakwood for a while and it still has friends here.

“Gainesville is a little closer to my heart than a lot of different places,” Konz said.

The Falcons also helped deliver the packages to three locations in Gainesville, including St. John Baptist Church on E.E. Butler Parkway, the senior life center on Prior Street, where the food bank hands out produce and bakery goods on Tuesdays and Fridays, and near the Melrose Apartment Community on Davis Street.

The need has not decreased, said Kay Blackstock, executive director of the food bank. There are more and more working poor, she said. The number of people who are working minimum-wage jobs, multiple jobs and grandparents raising children has increased.

“We’ve got lots of seniors that are really struggling more and more,” she said.

Volunteer Susie Bryan said this was the first time she’s ever ordered around football players. Bryan has volunteered at the food bank for about a year and was coordinating the packaging and sorting.

“It’s pretty neat to see them be just everyday people,” she said.

Heather Larsen, a volunteer with UnitedHealthcare, used to manage the company’s relationship with the football team. The team is dedicated to making a difference, not just showing up for media attention.

“I think what’s great about the Falcons is that they just don’t want to show up and have the guys just stand around. They want their guys to get their hands dirty.”

Carter, a regular at the senior center, said her family picks up the boxes from the food bank to help get through the lean times on its limited income.

“Those boxes help so much,” she said. “I mean a lot, but I appreciate it.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show nearly 17 percent of Georgians were food-insecure in 2012.
Carter got a hug from Paul Worrilow, No. 55, a rookie linebacker.

“Wow, I didn’t know what to say,” Carter said after the Falcons left. “I love all of them.”


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