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Food bank, church come together to give away food
Many families with empty refrigerators after Irma power outages
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Belinda Dickey, right, the president of Sunshine Seniors, and Bob Lane, a volunteer with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, pack bags with food to distribute on Friday in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

As one of thousands of area residents who lost electricity as a result of Tropical Storm Irma this week, Georgia Mountain Food Bank Executive Director Kay Blackstock understood the current need many families may have for food.

“I emptied my refrigerator and freezer (Thursday) and threw it in the garbage can, so I know folks can benefit from some stuff,” Blackstock said.

More than 100 families received bags of fruit, vegetables and baked goods provided Friday afternoon by the food bank in the parking lot of St. John Baptist Church, according to Blackstock. She said the food came from retail stores who regularly donate food to the organization as well as extra food she had ordered from the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

“None of this has to be in the refrigerator,” she said. ”That’s the beauty of the fresh food like this. It can sit out on the shelf and tide folks over. We also have some bread and baked goods. We are committed to trying to do a better job of weeding out the sweets, so you primarily have loaves of bread or rolls.”

Originally, the distribution was supposed to help families of New Holland Knowledge Academy and be held in conjunction with the school’s scheduled family night Thursday. However, the school event was canceled because schools were closed all week due to the effects of the storm. 

“But we had a truckload of produce coming and we had ordered surplus,” Blackstock said, 

She contacted Stephen Samuel, pastor of St. John Baptist, who agreed to let the food bank do the giveaway in the parking lot. She asked New Holland school officials to help get the word out about the food distribution.

“Isn’t it amazing to think about that?” Samuel asked. “People without power have lost everything in their refrigerators and freezers and that doesn’t get replaced. It was really just by the grace of God that (Blackstock) called and said she wanted to come do this. I think it’s really great. People really appreciate it”

Yvette Patterson and her son Cartel Thurmond were among the people who lined up in the parking lot to receive the food. She said her family lost electricity for a few days this week before service was restored Thursday. Still, it was too late to save the food in her refrigerator. She said a friend called her to tell her about the food giveaway.

“We threw away quite a bit (of food),” Patterson said. “I need food for my household.”

Gregory Jones of Rabbittown said he came to get food to take to family members.

“It’s going to my mother’s house,” he said. “They went without power for about two or three days, so we’re trying to replenish some stuff in the house.”

Linda Glasper didn’t lose power, but still needed food.

“I’m on a fixed income,” she said. “It helps feed my family. It’s truly a blessing for my family.”

Michele Williams, who has been volunteering for the food bank since the summer, was helping distribute food Friday.

“Everybody needs food,” she said. “My mom and dad lost power all week and they need food, so I’m bringing them food.”

Williams added that even without so many people losing perishable foods because of power outages, the distribution would still have been important.

“It’s just as important because it’s the right thing to do,” Williams said.

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