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Sunshine Seniors recognize fifth birthday of Gainesville food drive
Effort has grown to feed almost 600 families weekly
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Steve Mueller, far left, operations director at Georgia Mountain Food Bank, helps unload food at the Sunshine Seniors food distribution event in Gainesville, on Friday, June 15, 2018, at St. John Baptist Church. The Sunshine Seniors, in partnership with Georgia Mountain Food Bank, have established a tradition of serving food to the Gainesville community. - photo by David Barnes

Linda Glasper has been visiting a food drive at St. John Baptist Church in Gainesville twice a week for the last two years.

“It’s truly a blessing,” said Glasper, who lives solely off her social security checks. “God has blessed our house.”

It felt like a blessing for hundreds of others, too, gathered at the church on Friday, June 15, for the fifth “birthday” of this twice-weekly food drive hosted by the Sunshine Seniors, a ministry of women most active in Gainesville’s minority and lower-income neighborhoods.

“This is so awesome that we have been able to endure for five wonderful years,” said Belinda Dickey, a longtime leader with the Sunshine Seniors.

The Georgia Mountain Food Bank, working in partnership with the Sunshine Seniors, delivered nearly 11,000 pounds of produce, fresh-cut meat, sweets, prepackaged dry meals and cold, bottled water.

That’s about three times as much as the Sunshine Seniors typically receive for food distribution.

“We brought out the big truck,” said Steve Mueller, operations director with the Food Bank, nodding to an 18-wheeler parked in the church driveway. “They’re a little out of the ordinary.”

Mueller means that in the best way possible.

“(Sunshine Seniors) are unique, No. 1, for doing this for a lot of years,” he said, adding that the Food Bank works with about 78 food pantries, homeless shelters, daycare centers and other agencies across a five-county region. “They support us and we support them right back.”

And there was a lot more food than what was needed when the ministry first started.

“I never thought it would have grown this much,” Dickey said, adding that about 25 families were served each week in the first few months but now almost 600 families a week receive healthy food. “To God be the glory.”

Rev. Stephen Samuel, pastor of St. John, said the church will continue to partner with organizations that contribute to the very livelihood of Gainesville’s residents because it’s a joy and a responsibility.

“We don’t believe you can care about a person’s soul if you don’t care about their life,” Samuel said. “It’s one thing to feed spiritual needs … but it’s also about life, and celebrating life, which means you have to attend to the needs of people. That should be a sobering thought.”

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