Food bank helps people stretch budget

December 09, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

Even with the food for 20 turkey dinners, complete with all of the side dishes, all passed out, the women at the Community Friends Outreach Food Bank don't have time to rest on their laurels. After all, Christmas dinner is right around the corner.

So, they'll be checking their lists and calling their clients.

"We go through the file and get the ones with the lowest income and ones with the most kids," says Jolene Bailey, who oversees the food distribution in the basement of the Otter Street church she pastors.

The food bank was able to provide the Thanksgiving dinners after receiving $400 in donations. They saved about $150 to be used toward Christmas dinners.

In the meantime, Jereline Bailey, Helen Brown, a sister to Jolene Bailey, and Betty Yates are geared up for every Wednesday when they distribute food from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Everybody - which may vary from five to 25 people - leaves with a couple of grocery sacks loaded with food.


"We get a lot of people who have filed for food stamps," says Jolene Bailey.

After being involved with several Wednesdays of passing out food, they know how grateful the recipients are.

"We have a lot of people who cry," Jereline Bailey says, recalling the appreciation of one young couple who came before Thanksgiving. The woman had lost her job, and her husband had taken a lower-paying one. They had a young child.

Jereline Bailey says she used to be unsympathetic to the plight of these down-on-their luck people, but she has had a change of heart. Witnessing a situation where a mother had nothing but a few blankets in an apartment she shared with her three children made her think differently. "Things like that get to you," she says.

All of the women want to make sure children don't go hungry. They even keep a bag of candy on hand as a treat for the children who accompany their parents.

Jolene Bailey says she knows that some people feel like Jereline Bailey used to, but she sees a real hunger problem here, despite the availability of food stamps and other food suppliers such as the Salvation Army.

"You'll learn your people and who needs it," she says.

The young people who come vary, but they usually see the same senior citizens. The workers all smile when they think of one elderly woman who walks from across town pulling a little wagon to haul her food home. They say she never takes more than she can use, but the food bank helps her live with her meager budget.

Jereline Bailey says her grandchildren are used to grabbing a bite at McDonald's, but the children she sees at the food bank appreciate a jar of peanut butter.

"The children who come here are glad to get anything."

Jolene Bailey says they see the economy mainly affecting the elderly and young couples with children. As a single mother, she remembers what it was like to try to feed a family on a low budget.

"We ate crackers and marshmallows one week."

Started in October 2001

The food bank started in October 2001 with seven cans of food and within a week, it had stockpiled 8,000 pounds.

"Since then, we've put 30,000 pounds of food through here," says Jolene Bailey.

At this time of year, the bank has been the recipient of many food drives. Toliver Elementary always collected beef stew. Boyle Middle School just donated, and McDowell Wellness Center is collecting. Junction City Elementary is conducting its first food drive.

The bank works with God's Pantry in Lexington, which provided monthly distributions for a year after identifying that 11 percent of the population in Boyle County "lives with food insecurity." "If someone gives us money, we go to God's Pantry and buy meat because we want to be able to give some meat," Jolene Bailey says.

In a press release, God's Pantry says it also is accepting donations at this time of year.

During the year God's Pantry worked in Boyle County, it distributed 166,400 pounds of food valued at more than $264,000.

"For a $1 donation, God's Pantry Food Bank can distribute $10 worth of food," says Marian Blanchard, executive director.

More space needed

Bailey knows people appreciate the food, but she is frustrated because she feels she and her team of workers could do so much more if they had the space. She wants to be open four days a week and hang up the many clothes they have received. The clothes are stored in containers that are multiplying and taking over the kitchen area of the church, Faith Temple First Pentecostal Church of God.

Jolene Bailey talked with city commissioners about using the old Save-A-Lot building for the operation but was turned down. Since then, the group has met with dead-ends.

"We've had people step forward, but they never go through with it," she says.

One man from Stanford did buy a freezer from Lowe's and had it delivered. They used it to store their Thanksgiving turkeys. She says 3,000 square feet is needed.

"But at this point, we'd take a storefront."

With the additional space, they could offer the clothing, diapers and other household needs. "That's my goal is to be able to supply everything they need," Jolene Bailey says.

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