Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Sandra Vanier recently took over the administration of the Feed the Hungry program in Vidalia from her mother, Linda Bonnette, who ran the program for many years. “I didn’t want to see this program end, because people need this program,” Vanier said. Nearly 200 people are given 50 pounds of food from Feed the Hungry each month.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Sandra Vanier recently took over the administration of the Feed the Hungry program in Vidalia from her mother, Linda Bonnette, who ran the program for many years. “I didn’t want to see this program end, because people need this program,” Vanier said. Nearly 200 people are given 50 pounds of food from Feed the Hungry each month.

Everyday Hero: Daughter continues Feed the Hungry outreach

Published 12:09am Friday, November 8, 2013

Vidalia — People will always need help, and when a long-time helper steps down, a new one necessarily needs to arise.

Sandra Vanier found herself in the position of having to step up to meet the need at Feed the Hungry earlier this year when Linda Bonnette — her mother and the program’s long-time director — stepped down from the organizations’ leadership.

When she resigned, Bonnette sent out a letter saying the organization would continue to operate, but its ultimate future would depend on the continued approval of the church that sponsors it, First Assembly of God in Vidalia.

One of the key components of that future would be new leadership, and unwilling to see an organization that helps feed 200 families a month slowly dry up, Vanier stepped in.

Aside from being run by her mother for many years, Feed the Hungry was founded by the church’s late pastor, the Rev. Albert Fraley, and Vanier said the food program represents not only a lifeline to those in need but the message of hope and help the church wants to put out into the world.

“The Lord really put it on my heart, and I cried a lot because I didn’t want to see this program close,” she said. “People think that just a little bit of food doesn’t help, but for those who really need it, this could mean you can eat for another week.”

A benevolence ministry of the church, Feed the Hungry distributes 50-pound boxes of dried goods and a bag of frozen food to those who fall below federal poverty guidelines. Though the recipients do not pay for the food themselves, each family requires a $15 monthly sponsorship to keep the program afloat.

The program is willing to help anyone who falls within its income guidelines, providing the funding is there, Vanier said.

The sponsorships are sometimes directed to a particular recipient — some churches do this, Vanier said — while others are paid through general contributions to the program.

Taking over the program hasn’t been without its own sacrifices. Vanier had to take an extra day off work each week — she is a full-time hair stylist at the Expressions salon — and she’s done more lifting and standing on her feet than she thought she would.

But she’s not complaining, and Vanier said Feed the Hungry is about more than just food.

“We have people who are going through our lines, and they may not be feeling well, and they just want someone to pray with them, to listen to them,” she said.

Beyond that, Vanier said stepping up and becoming the new face of Feed the Hungry isn’t about her.

“I don’t mind, because the Lord says that if you give of your time, I will bless it,” she said. “If I was doing it for me, it would be different, but it is all for him.”

Those who feel a similar urge to give of their time are welcome, and volunteers who can package, sort and shelve food are always needed. Even if time isn’t a commodity you can share right now, Vanier said donations of cash and food goods are welcome.

“You can give me a can or give me a turkey — I will take anything, little or big,” she said.

Feed the Hungry is located at 4810 U.S. 84 West and can be reached by phone at 318-336-4050. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday.