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Over 480 families get food through churches’ efforts

By Rita Howell
After months of fund-raising, planning and pre-screening, on Tuesday as Panola County was being drenched with a cold winter rain, representatives from 486 local families came to receive free food from an 18-wheeler sent to Como by the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis.

The project was organized and paid for by a group of 12 Como churches, the North Panola Church  Collaborative. About 50 volunteers had gathered under tents outside Cistern Hill Church to hand out boxes of food containing bakery goods, citrus, assorted meats, potatoes and cabbage. In all, more than 15,000 pounds of food were distributed, according to Andrew Bell, marketing director for the nonprofit Mid-South Food Bank.

The recipients had received vouchers in pre-screenings held over the past two weeks. A traffic jam resulted as people headed to Cistern Hill, east of Como, to redeem the vouchers during a two-hour period Tuesday afternoon as rain continued to fall.

Organizers directed traffic  off busy Highway 310 onto a side road and held vehicles until space was available for them to drive up to the church and pick up their food.

The free food was available to residents of northern Panola County who qualify for SNAP and other assistance for low-income households.

“These churches began working on assembling the Mobile Pantry back in June of 2013,” explained Tonya Bradley, Mid-South Food Bank VP of Programs. “To see the response and commitment of the volunteers who braved the elements to organize and deliver the food was inspiring and rewarding.”

“This is wonderful, a blessing for recipients and for those of us at the churches to work together in a Christ-like fashion,” said Loraine Davis, of Cistern Hill.

The group plans to repeat the food giveaway.

“I’m surprised and amazed at the depth of the people facing hunger in our area,” Margaret Wilburn, a volunteer from Como Church of Christ, said.

“Organizing this was an effective way for our churches to unite and work together to combat a real issue that unfortunately bonds all of them.”

The sponsoring churches are: Sardis United Methodist Church, Cistern Hill MB, Como UMC, Como Chapel CME, Como Baptist, Hammond Hill Baptist, Sardis Baptist, Holy Innocents Episcopal, Wesley Chapel, Walton Chapel, Como Church of Christ, and Cherry St. Baptist Church.

The food distribution through the Mid-South Food Bank cost about $1,600, a spokesman estimated.


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