02/07/05 — Food pantry runs on handouts and discounts

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Food pantry runs on handouts and discounts

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 7, 2005 1:55 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Annie Gains saw pecan shells on the porch floor as she walked up the steps to take food to a friend.

"Me and my young 'uns didn't have anything to eat yesterday but pecans and water," said the friend.

Mrs. Gains had seen the friend the day before at a food pantry in Goldsboro. The friend was coming out of the food pantry as Mrs. Gains was going into the office to get help with winter fuel. This was last winter.

"Did you get some help?"' she had asked her friend.

"No," the friend said. "I didn't qualify."

"I told her, 'Don't worry. I'll bring you food,'" said Mrs. Gains. She went to her home in Goldsboro and told her husband, Pete. He encouraged her. "You do what you got to do," he told her.

Mrs. Gains, her daughter and her sister walked past the pecan shells the next day carrying boxes of food into the friend's house.

"I got to thinking about it," said Mrs. Gains. "I said, 'I can start a food pantry.'"

With encouragement from her husband, Mrs. Gains became the founder and president of the Blessings of Giving Food Pantry.

She talked to Mount Olive Town Commissioner Ora Truzy and Town Manager Ray McDonald. They helped her find a place, and in August, the town provided rent-free one of the rooms on the Henrietta Williams wing of the old Carver School.

The late Henrietta Williams of Mount Olive had a place similar to the food pantry, but it burned, said Ms. Truzy. "We wanted to keep the Henrietta Williams spirit alive."

The food pantry is one of three programs using some of the six classrooms in the Henrietta Williams wing. The other two are an after-school program and another program called Work Force.

The food comes from the food bank in Raleigh and donations from local companies like Mt. Olive Pickle Co., which has given stacks of boxes of pickles. Britthaven, where her husband works, donated some canned goods. Winn Dixie and Food Lion helped.

"We have a lot of people," said Mrs. Gains. "We just can't keep enough food for them. We're asking for donations from people and companies."

A lot of people call the food pantry, asking, "What you got today?"

Anybody can come in and get food, said the food pantry's volunteer manager, Harvey McCullen.

The food bank in Raleigh sends a truck to the food pantry about once a month with whatever it has. Sometimes, it's fresh produce like bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes or cabbage. Sometimes, it's canned foods or refrigerated goods like prepared cole slaw, potato salad or mayonnaise. The truck brings bread some times, too.

"There's no problem getting the word out," said McCullen, a retired truck driver.

The food pantry has non-food items, too, like crutches for children and grown-ups, walkers, canes and stacks of boxes of bedpans that are in a little room to the side of the food pantry.

"People have been mighty nice to us since we started," said McCullen. "We thank God for what they send."

The food pantry is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday.

The pantry accepts donations of money, which helps with the purchase of meats, which local companies make available at discount prices. Volunteers help and ideas are welcome from the community.

Donations are tax-exempt and can be sent to Blessings of Giving Food Pantry, 612 Breazeale Ave., Mount Olive, N.C. 28365. For information, call 731-7667, 635-9397 or 635-4800.