Holiday blessings for needy: Family fills table thanks to food pantry
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 2015
About a year ago, Pearl River County resident Jennifer Bennett’s husband’s work hours were cut. With three children to feed, the stay-at-home mom turned to the volunteers at Poplarville’s Crossroads Food Pantry for help.
Along with the loss in income, the family’s funds from the supplemental nutrition assistance program were lowered.
“We had less money for food,” she said. “I come here every other Wednesday and I don’t know what we would do if the food pantry wasn’t here.”
Besides feeding her family, Bennett said the savings on food allow the family to pay their rent, utility bills and her husband’s monthly blood pressure and weight control medications.
In addition to young families, the elderly are also served at the food pantry, she said.
“A lot of people would be messed up if they weren’t here,” Bennett said. “They are very friendly and Christian people. We pray every morning. I’ve never felt ashamed of asking for assistance, if I needed help, I’ve always asked.”
When she’s not attending school, Bennett’s 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Thames, joins her mother during distribution days at the food pantry.
“It’s been very helpful,” Thames said. “When we barely have any food, we come here so we can have food to eat.”
Today, the pantry will be distributing food and added a frozen turkey or chicken to the boxes in order for those in need to have a more bountiful Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, volunteers gathered to pack the boxes. Two of those were husband and wife team, Kerry and Johnny Scalise. The pair has volunteered at Crossroads for the past two years.
“We’re supposed to serve, that’s what Jesus did,” Kerry Scalise said. “We also volunteer at Manna Ministries in Picayune. It makes me feel good to help people that need it. They appreciate it. A lot of the clients are elderly and live on fixed incomes. The food they receive helps them make it through until their next Social Security check.”
During distribution days, Johnny Scalise mans the front counter and reports the number of households and people to volunteers boxing up food.
“I love these people. It’s about souls touching souls,” he said. “They tell you their personal stories, their sicknesses and hard times. The food pantry is great for this area. I can’t say enough good things about it.”
During today’s distribution, about 70 households will benefit, Crossroads Food Pantry Director Sharon Bonnecarrere said. For those with a smaller household, Helping Hands Turkey Dinner vouchers, provided by Crossroads Seafood, will be given.
The non-profit recently started the “We Care Meals,” program Bonnecarrere said. The food pantry donates the food and it is prepared and delivered to the sick, homebound and elderly once a week.
After Thanksgiving, the volunteers will turn their attention to gathering donated Christmas gifts for their clients’ children. People can donate toys for children ages 4 months to 15 years, she said. The food pantry also hosts a Christmas party at a local church to disperse gifts and host a program. Picayune Veterinary Clinic is partnering with the pantry and is accepting gifts at their office.
The non-profit organization serves needy clients in the Pearl River, Ford’s Creek, White Sand and Henleyfield locations, Bonnecarrere said. The only criterion for service is that beneficiaries reside in the service area.
From January to September of this year, the food pantry served 1,230 households, which adds up to about 3,474 people, Bonnecarrere said. Fifty-five percent of those served are children and elderly.
The pantry is open every second Wednesday of the month and hands out groceries to those in need. Grocery items include meats, canned goods, bread and dry goods.
All donations are tax-deductible and anyone wishing to donate to the food pantry may contact Bonnecarrere at 601-799-3045. Crossroads Food Pantry is located at 176 Old Crossroads West, Poplarville. Learn more about the pantry through Facebook.