A la­bor of love

Vol­un­teers happy to help oth­ers at Prince Ge­orge Food Bank

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Adri­enne Wal­lace Her­ald-Post Ed­i­tor

PRINCE GE­ORGE — Thanks­giv­ing din­ner was plen­ti­ful for many Prince Ge­orge fam­i­lies who might have gone with­out the tra­di­tional large meal this year.

That’s due to the 38-yearold Prince Ge­orge Food Bank, its many vol­un­teers and its sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing the county, Food Lion, Per­due and other lo­cal busi­nesses, as well as Rich­mond-based non­profit Feed More.

On Tues­day, fam­i­lies lined up to get tur­keys and other food items just two days be­fore the hol­i­day.

An­drea Barnes, the Food Bank's man­ager for the past 18 years, said she couldn’t be paid for what she does. “I just am so pas­sion­ate about it, they couldn’t pay me to do this,” she said. “I eat, live and sleep the Prince Ge­orge Food Bank.”

She was joined by many other vol­un­teers who give their time to bag up do­nated gro­ceries and pro­vide nour­ish­ment to those who are in need.

There are no re­quire­ments to qual­ify to re­ceive goods

from the Food Bank or the af­fil­i­ated Clothes Closet, which pro­vides do­nated cloth­ing items at no cost. Both are housed at the Prince Ge­orge Cen­tral Well­ness Cen­ter off Prince Ge­orge Drive.

Shirley Hud­son hung up newly ar­rived cloth­ing, say­ing, “I love help­ing out, and I think it’s won­der­ful that this all is free.”

That’s a change Barnes in­tro­duced, ex­plain­ing that in the past, those who came to the fa­cil­ity could

get free food but were charged for cloth­ing. She felt all of the items should be free.

“All you have to do is be a Prince Ge­orge res­i­dent to get the items you need here,” Barnes ex­plained. ‘There are no fi­nan­cial re­quire­ments.”

The pantry is open Tues­days and Fri­days, serv­ing the pub­lic with a pa­per bag full of gro­ceries, breads, cakes and meats — enough to last three weeks. Each day, Food Lion brings in more sup­plies that bring din­ner to county res­i­dents’ ta­bles.

Es­ther Manuel is proud of her work there. She ex­plained that she first

started vol­un­teer­ing on Fri­days when she still worked and the or­ga­ni­za­tion was housed in the for­mer county jail (set to be­come the lo­ca­tion of the Re­gional Her­itage Cen­ter's Fire and EMS Mu­seum). Now that she is re­tired, she vol­un­teers even more. Manuel and Win­fred Bald­win run the com­puter desk as clients come in.

“I love my time here,” she said, prais­ing Barnes for her ded­i­ca­tion.” It’s just a bless­ing to see how many peo­ple the Food Bank has helped.”

Each month, the or­ga­ni­za­tion serves about 800 peo­ple. Tues­day was U.S.

Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture day, when a trac­tor-trailer brings in a truck­load of pro­duce and other items from Rich­mond.

The Food Bank has grown over the years. It started out at a trailer at Gre­gory Me­mo­rial Church, then moved to the for­mer jail and fire­house at the court­house com­plex, be­fore mov­ing to the Cen­tral Well­ness Cen­ter, lo­cated in the for­mer Moore Mid­dle School.

Of­ten, Manuel said, peo­ple who come to the Food Bank for help are em­bar­rassed about their sit­u­a­tion. “I ask them if they have ever worked a day in their life,” she said.

“And they say ‘Yes.’ And then I say, ‘Well, then you have paid taxes, you de­serve this, so put your pride in your back pocket and let us help you — that’s what we’re here for.'”

Food Bank board pres­i­dent He­len Jones said that not ev­ery­one qual­i­fies for food stamps, yet they still need as­sis­tance.

“Anyone can fall on hard times at any time,” she said. “They shouldn’t be ashamed or em­bar­rassed to come in here and get food or clothes it’s all about help­ing peo­ple, and of­ten we see those who have been helped come back and help out them­selves.”

[ADRI­ENNE WAL­LACE PHO­TOS/HER­ALD-POST]

Es­ther Manuel (from left), An­drea Barnes and Leon Parham bag gro­ceries at the Prince Ge­orge Food Bank on Tues­day, Nov. 20, 2018.

Vol­un­teers pack up pro­duce be­fore clients ar­rive at the Prince Ge­orge Food Bank on Tues­day, Nov. 20, 2018.

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