Personally filling 78 bags of groceries and passing along $1,000 worth of gift certificates for turkeys or hams, the East Georgia Regional Medical Center Auxiliary helped Christian Social Ministries provide Thanksgiving dinner for up to 100 households this week.
This is the seventh year that the hospital auxiliary's volunteers have carried out a Sharing Thanksgiving project in cooperation with Christian Social Ministries, said EGRMC Auxiliary President Miriam Willow.
"It's all about giving back to the community," Willow said of this and other auxiliary projects. "I think we receive more from doing it than anybody else, really."
Each paper bag contains stuffing mix and instant mashed potatoes, two canned vegetables, a muffin mix, a gelatin-type dessert and cake mix and frosting. The hospital gave the $1,000 that the auxiliary used to purchase the 100 Bi-Lo supermarket gift certificates, each for $10. Each family that received a bag would also get a gift certificate, Willow said, and the remaining gift certificates were available for Christian Social Ministries to distribute Monday to other households in need.
Of course, the 74 or so EGRMC Auxiliary members devote many of their
volunteer hours through the year to helping out at the hospital, from greeting patients and visitors to delivering flowers and balloons, to helping file paperwork. But the auxiliary also reaches outside the hospital to assist other social service organizations, such as the Hearts and Hands Clinic, ACTS and Ogeechee Area Hospice.
"There is always a need for volunteers," Willow said. "We would love more volunteers."
Raising money through events such as the Scrubs Sale, which offers uniforms to medical professionals, and a jewelry sale, the EGRMC Auxiliary funds $14,000 in scholarships annually. At $2,000 each, the scholarships currently go to four Ogeechee Technical College students in radiologic technology and other healthcare fields and to three Georgia Southern University nursing students.
Christian Social Ministries
John Long, director of Christian Social Ministries, drove a pickup truck with a stock trailer to the hospital, where volunteers loaded the bags of groceries into the trailer. Two of Long's granddaughters, ages 11 and 7, accompanied him. They have made a tradition of helping each year.
Since moving to a building in northern Statesboro earlier this year, Christian Social Ministries, or CSM, has increased both its thrift store revenue and the demand for its food assistance, Long reports. In the process, it also spread its food resources thinner.
Members of anywhere from 80 to 150 families now come in each Monday to get food. Senior citizens make up the majority, and roughly half are raising grandchildren, Long observed anecdotally.
CSM, a subsidiary agency the Ogeechee River Baptist Association, previously occupied space on U.S. Highway 301 South. Since moving into town in July to the intersection of East Parrish Street and Davis Street, CSM has tripled the size of its thrift store space, Long said. The store operates 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Money from the 40 churches in the association, which are also part of the Southern Baptist Convention, directly supports CSM's program assisting people with utilities, rent and occasionally medicines or other emergency needs. It distributes about $6,000 a month, Long said, with 25 to 30 families coming in for these needs on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, when the sign-up begins at 9 a.m.
But there will be no utilities distribution today for lack of money, he said.
The food distribution is supported mainly by proceeds from the thrift store, but also receives donations of money and food throughout the year, Long said. Thanksgiving and Christmas bring the most contributions, especially with TMT Farms passing along money donated by visitors to its Christmas display, he said. The ministry buys food from America's Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia.
Since the move, so many more people have shown up requesting food that CSM has limited each household to getting groceries once a month instead of twice, Long said. The ministry still distributes food each Monday beginning at 1 p.m., but families who receive food once are not given more until the next month.
"Every week we get new clients, anywhere from five to a dozen that come in and sign up," Long said. "We're trying to do more than just apply a Band-Aid. We've got people that we've been ministering to and distributing food to for the last six years, since we started this."
CSM only refuses assistance to people who lie, such as those who misrepresent a single household as multiple households in order to get more food, he said.
If revenue continues to grow, Long said, he hopes to restore a second distribution per family in 2016.
In the course of a month, more than 50 volunteers now help with the thrift store and food pantry, Long said.
"Even at that, we're still in need of more volunteers," he said.
But food distribution, utilities assistance and the thrift store all serve what Long, an ordained minister, says is the ministries' higher purpose.
"We're a faith-based organization," he said. "Our goal is to share Jesus Christ."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.