Although she doesn’t have much to give besides her time, 78-year-old Margaret Hicks volunteers year-round for the New Life Evangelistic Center in Columbia.
“Whenever I work here, I feel like I’m helping others who need the help,” she said.
As Thanksgiving approaches, more people seem to need more help. The New Life Evangelistic Center and local food pantries already are trying to meet the rising need that comes around the holidays.
This week, the New Life center is distributing turkeys, chickens and other food to families in need. The Rev. Larry Rice said he hopes to hand out food through next week as well — but said it depends on the supply.
Last year, about 150 families came through the center in the weeks before Thanksgiving, and this year Rice expects that number to almost double.
“We’ve already gathered the resources for 200 turkeys and chickens in Columbia,” he said. “We’re making a public appeal for people to go out and buy extra turkeys and bring them to the New Life Evangelistic Center.”
Esther Smith of Columbia appreciates the service the center provides. “I can come down here and get food if I need it,” she said Wednesday, picking up a turkey from the center.
Rick Rowden, resource development director of the Central Missouri Food Bank, said this is one of the times of the year when people are most in need, and many groups try to help out.
“That awareness definitely helps out the cause,” he said.
The food bank — serving a network of 120 agencies in 31 counties — is in need of more volunteers to help sort and prepare to hand out food donated through a number of food drives going on around mid-Missouri.
Last year, the Central Missouri Food Bank distributed 15.5 million pounds of food. By Nov. 1 of this year it had distributed 15 million pounds.
“We don’t back off at all at any time to raise funds and find food,” Rowden said. “It’s a never-ending battle”
Throughout November and December, the food bank also is holding its Check Out Hunger campaign. Customers at participating grocery stores can use a scan card at checkout to add a $1 or more donation to their bill.
Last year, the campaign raised $33,000. After making a few changes such as new graphic design, business sponsorship and media support, the food bank hopes to raise $50,000 this year. For every $1 donated, the food bank can acquire 20 pounds of food.
“We all think about that family dinner,” Rowden said. “It’s just our hearts’ desire to make that opportunity available to as many people out there as we possibly can.”
Loaves and Fishes co-manager Jerry Finkle said about 130 people come through the kitchen a day. He expects that number to slightly rise around the holidays. Volunteers seem to be sufficient right now, he said, but they could always use donations.