A trib­ute to some good peo­ple do­ing good things

The Covington News - - OPINION - DICK YARBROUGH COLUM­NIST You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bell­south.net; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139; on­line at dick­yarbrough.com or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/dick­yarb

Some­times we for­get that there are a lot of good peo­ple on this earth do­ing good things. I was re­minded of that by my friend, Jack Cook­ston, who re­cently had some med­i­cal is­sues that re­quired him to cart around an oxy­gen tank wher­ever he went. (Hap­pily, his health has im­proved and the oxy­gen tank is his­tory.)

Cook­ston said he was over­whelmed at the kind­ness of strangers who opened doors for him, anony­mously bought his din­ner at a lo­cal restau­rant; of­fered him en­cour­age­ment and gen­er­ally showed a gen­eros­ity of spirit that doesn’t come through on the evening news.

I thought of Jack Cook­ston’s ob­ser­va­tions when I trav­eled to Gainesville re­cently to visit the Ge­or­gia Moun­tain Food Bank, op­er­ated by a group of good peo­ple who have that same gen­eros­ity of spirit.

I have a warm spot for Gainesville and Hall County. The area hosted the row­ing venue in the 1996 Cen­ten­nial Olympic Games and did a great job. A lot of the cities that had lob­bied hard for an Olympic venue sud­denly wanted the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee to pay for any and all costs they oc­curred in stag­ing the venue and whined and com­plained as though we had dumped toxic waste on their doorstep. Not Gainesville. They get my gold medal for their co­op­er­a­tion.

One of the driv­ing forces in the cre­ation of the Ge­or­gia Moun­tain Food Bank was Jim Mathis, a long-time com- mu­nity leader in Hall County. Not sur­pris­ingly, Mathis was also a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor in the suc­cess of the row­ing venue — which is still in busi­ness. That was one rea­son I made a pil­grim­age to Gainesville. I wanted to thank him in per­son for not whin­ing and com­plain­ing in 1996.

The Ge­or­gia Moun­tain Food Bank is no small op­er­a­tion. In 2014, the en­ter­prise served more than 3 mil­lion meals in a five-county area through more than 58 part­ner agen­cies. Much of the food is do­nated from food dis­trib­u­tors and man­u­fac­tur­ers and safely stored in their 20,000 square foot build­ing where some 3,700 vol­un­teers spent more than 9,000 hours pack­ing food boxes. Im­pres­sive num­bers, but to say they are sat­is­fied with their good works would be in­ac­cu­rate. Good peo­ple al­ways think they can do even more good.

Kay Black­stock, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, says that cur­rently one in five Ge­or­gians are “food in­se­cure.” That is a po­lite way of say­ing that too many peo­ple living in the rich­est coun­try on earth and in one of its fastest-grow­ing states are go­ing hun­gry ev­ery day, in­clud­ing chil­dren, se­nior cit­i­zens and the dis­abled. That ought to keep us awake at night with guilt; par­tic­u­larly, af­ter we have scraped half a meal down the dis­posal or fed it to the dog.

Richard Ri­ley, a long-time friend from our days in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions busi­ness is a mem­ber of the board who could be en­joy­ing a well-earned re­tire­ment but, in­stead, is de­vot­ing his time and tal­ent — and pas­sion — to bring­ing in more re­sources to the Ge­or­gia Moun­tain Food Bank. “It doesn’t take much to make a dif­fer­ence,” he says. “One dollar can feed five peo­ple.”

The Ge­or­gia Moun­tain Food Bank is one of nine commu- nity food banks op­er­at­ing across Ge­or­gia. Oth­ers in­clude the At­lanta Com­mu­nity Food Bank, the Chat­tanooga Food Bank which serves Dal­ton and north­west Ge­or­gia; the Food Bank of North­east Ge­or­gia, op­er­at­ing out of Athens; Feed­ing the Val­ley in Colum­bus; the Mid­dle Ge­or­gia Com­mu­nity Food Bank, serv­ing the Ma­con area; Golden Har­vest Food Bank of Au­gusta; Sec­ond Har­vest of South Ge­or­gia which in­cludes both the Al­bany and Val­dosta ar­eas and Amer­ica’s Sec­ond Har­vest of Coastal Ge­or­gia head­quar­tered in Sa­van­nah.

While the lo­ca­tions vary, they have one thing in com­mon says Black­stock. “We are al­ways in need of the three F’s — food, funds and friends.” They also have some­thing else in com­mon. They are op­er­ated by good peo­ple who can’t be com­fort­able when­ever there is some­one in need. They could use your help.

As Jack Cook­ston dis­cov­ered while lug­ging around his oxy­gen tank and as the ded­i­cated folks at the Ge­or­gia Moun­tain Food Bank showed me dur­ing my visit, there are still a lot of good peo­ple around do­ing good things — whether open­ing a door for some­one who isn’t able or feed­ing the hun­gry.

Per­haps if there were more of us help­ing those who can’t help them­selves in­stead of sit­ting on our duffs and com­plain­ing about the world go­ing to hell in a wheel­bar­row, we might just make that world a bet­ter one for all of us. Af­ter all, isn’t that what good peo­ple do?

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