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A food pantry feels economic pinch
Volunteers keep South Hall Community Food Pantry running smoothly
Volunteer Pat Wood helps keep the South Hall Community Food Pantry running.


Carol Williams talks about how her church, East Lanier Community Church, got involved with the South Hall Community Food Pantry.

Local food resources

Many food pantries and banks are feeling the pinch. If you're looking to help those in need this Christmas, here are a few in need of nonperishable food or donations.

Chattahoochee Baptist Association's Good Samaritan Ministry
Contact: 770-532-3371

Georgia Mountain Food Bank
770-535-7880 or North Georgia Community Foundation

Lula Connection

South Hall Community Food Pantry
To make a donation, call Christ Lutheran Church, 770-535-9938; Oakwood First United Methodist Church, 770-532-8084; or St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church, 770-503-7555

Warren Chapel United Methodist Church food pantry
706-335-5290 or 404-664-5468

OAKWOOD - Six years ago, Freddie Garland became disabled, and his struggle to survive began.

"I was at the point I had to go to food banks," he said.

Four years later and back on his feet, Garland was sitting in a service at Christ Lutheran Church in Oakwood when a woman stood up and announced that volunteers were needed at the South Hall Community Food Pantry.

"I felt that was my calling," Garland said. "I felt I had to give back."

These days, the pantry needs all the volunteers and donations it can get.

The church-run ministry, which sits in a small shed on the Oakwood First United Methodist Church grounds, has served more than 2,000 families this year, up from 978 last year, said lead volunteer Pat Wood.

"Some people are nearly stunned that they'd ever be in this position," Wood said. "... Some of them have lost their jobs, some are waiting for food stamps and there is a little wait there, and some just can't manage until the end of the month and feed their families."

"We have several senior citizens who are on fixed incomes," Garland added.

"And gas has been a problem, even though (the price) has gone down," Wood said. "Some people don't have enough gas to get everywhere they need to go."

Christ Lutheran, Oakwood First United and St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church, all in Oakwood, began the food bank in February 2005.

Talk of such an effort began in 2003, Wood said.

The three churches each wanted to start the ministry on their own in South Hall but decided to combine their efforts.

The churches were able to secure a small metal building and set it up at the church. The South Hall Rotary Club built a covered porch to the pantry.

The Springs Church in Flowery Branch and East Lanier Community Church in Buford since have joined in the effort.

The pantry is open 3-5 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m.-noon Thursday and Saturday.

"Our requirements are that the very first time (people) come, they don't have to have a referral," Wood said.

In future visits, however, they must have a referral from the Department of Family and Children Services, Gainesville Action Ministries or any area church, she said.

Wood said rising demand has been met with rising supplies.

"We've been blessed," she said. "We've got the food and we've got the volunteers."

During the holidays, "people are very generous," Wood added. "We ... keep this pantry packed with food all the time. We've got a lot of businesses that help us too."

The Springs Church accepted pantry donations for a Christmas play, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," it put on Sunday with help from Fifth Row Center, a South Hall-based community theater group.

Wood said pantry workers keep grocery bags filled with basic foods handy for smaller and bigger families.

The pantry also accepts items not on its basic-needs list, including diapers and baby formula. Wood said they will give these items to people as they become available.

"But rather than put (a jar of) olives in a bag for somebody who does not want olives, we let people choose one to three (nonbasic) things," Wood said. "That's our fun shelf."

Wood recalled when she became involved with the ministry.

"I was at church one day cleaning the kitchen ... and some people came in and I asked, ‘What are you all doing?' and they said ‘We're having a meeting,'" said Wood, a member at St. Gabriel's.

"It was an outreach meeting and I was the new outreach chairman. I said, ‘May I sit in?'"

Carol Williams, a volunteer with East Lanier Community Church, said her 6-year-old church wanted to start up a "more formalized" outreach program.

The church began scouting around for different programs and services in the area and came across the pantry.

"They were really seeing some increases in the numbers and it seemed like a good fit for us," Williams said.

She said the experience has been personally satisfying.

"It makes me feel wonderful. It makes me feel like we're having an opportunity to live as Christ would have us live in our community," Williams said.