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Food pantry now open

NATCHEZ &8212; The community food pantry is open for business and none too soon, said Theresa Beach, director.

&8220;Last week we gave out food boxes to 186 families,&8221; Beach said. She expects the numbers to increase.

Organized by the Natchez Ministerial Alliance, the food pantry is located in the former AB Motor Co., at the corner of N. Shields Lane and Wood Avenue.

On Monday, Beach grappled with 1,400 pounds of canned vegetables &8212; unmarked cans but known to be vegetables and good for consumption until 2009.

Donations are welcomed, Beach said. &8220;I&8217;ve never turned anything down. If God gives me something, there&8217;s someone coming my way that needs it.&8221;

The food pantry is open to individuals and families who qualify by need. Eligibility may be determined by employment status, temporary emergency need or level of income or disability.

&8220;People come to the food pantry to sign up,&8221; Beach said. &8220;They can sign up Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday between 9 and 11 a.m.&8221;

When an individual or family qualifies, the first box of food is provided them on the spot. After that, Thursday is the distribution day.

&8220;You only get food on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 to 11 (a.m.), if you have just signed up and have been accepted,&8221; Beach said.

&8220;After that, you come on Thursday, between 8 and 10:30 in the morning.&8221;

The Rev. Bob Perkins has been actively involved in the pantry on behalf of the ministerial alliance.

The need for the agency is great, he said. &8220;Theresa told me she has added 75 families to the list in the last 30 days.&8221;

With the distribution getting under way now, Perkins is pleased with the smooth operations.

&8220;It is a drive through. People can drive through in their cars, put the boxes in their cars and be on their way,&8221; Perkins said. &8220;I was afraid there would be traffic problems, congestion and all, but that has not happened.&8221;

Those wishing to donate to the pantry may do so in several ways. Churches are collecting both money and foodstuffs for the pantry. As a United Way agency, the pantry can receive donations through gifts to UW.

Anyone with food to donate directly to the pantry may bring it during the mornings, Monday through Thursday.

The pantry also is glad to get help from volunteers in putting together food boxes.

&8220;We like to do that on Tuesday afternoons,&8221; Beach said. Volunteers should arrive sometime soon after 5 p.m. to help with the boxes.

Perkins said volunteers will be key to the success of the pantry. &8220;We do need volunteers to help put the boxes together but we also need help in handing the food out,&8221; he said. &8220;And it would be a big help just to have someone answer the phone two or three hours a day.&8221;

Another easy volunteer job would be to pick up the empty boxes donated by the grocery stores about town, Perkins said.

The food pantry project is a community-wide effort, Beach said. &8220;This is community helping community, the whole community coming together. I happen to be the one passing on the blessing.&8221;

Beach said she has watched Natchez come together on the pantry project. &8220;There&8217;s always that strand of people to plow together, to stand shoulder to shoulder and be what Natchez is supposed to be.&8221;

A story rises from every person and family touched by the pantry&8217;s assistance, she said. For some, the one box of food each month helps but probably is not sufficient.

&8220;We&8217;re serving two families with 11 people each. They get two boxes,&8221; she said.

A box of food may include canned vegetables and fruits, canned meat or chicken and packaged rice, spaghetti or noodles; when available, frozen chicken or meat; sometimes cleaning products; and &8220;fresh bread when we have it,&8221; Beach said.

Donations can take many different shapes, Beach said. One thing she needs is an evaporator coil for the cooler that was donated to the pantry.

&8220;Evidently, when it was taken apart, the coil was broken. It has to be replaced,&8221; she said.

Barrels in which food donations may be placed are at the Natchez Market stores, some of the area churches and, most recently, at Cellular South, Gene&8217;s Tires and Sears, among other locations.

Perkins said he and others in the ministerial alliance are pleased with the facility and with the program.

&8220;We&8217;re finally getting moving here,&8221; he said. &8220;The next thing will be to raise some money. About a dozen churches are taking part now. If all the churches would participate, there would be no problem in funding.&8221;