After being lent one helping hand, members of a Bulloch County family are extending all of theirs to support a local organization.
When Robert and Lynn McIntosh receive a warm smile or humble “thank you” from a man or woman leaving the Statesboro Food Bank, groceries in hand, they get it.
The McIntoshes, who spend regular hours volunteering at the local nonprofit, understand the gratitude, the need — they know, because they have stood on the other side.
“(The Statesboro Food Bank) has been there for us,” Robert McIntosh said. “Hopefully we never need it again, but we know that if we do, they would be here for us — just like they are here for everyone who ever needs them.”
“We just try to pay it forward,” said Lynn McIntosh.
Last year, the Brooklet couple found themselves in a situation they never saw coming.
Robert and Lynn had, for some time, taken in children who were at odds with their families, giving them food to eat and a place to sleep.
“We are able to bring them into our house, talk with them and try to help work things out between them and their families,” Robert McIntosh said. “We also help them get diplomas if they need them, and get prepared for college.”
The full house, while not easy to support, had never been too costly — until an accident.
“I had a bad car crash that left me one vertebra away from being paralyzed, which required surgery,” Lynn McIntosh said. “During that time period, things got a little rough around the house financially. We also had extra kids in the house at the time, and needed a little extra help.
“I went to (the Division of Family and Children Services) to file for food stamps, but they said it would take quite a while,” she said. “But they gave me an emergency food voucher and told me about Mr. Joe Bill Brannon and the Statesboro Food Bank.”
Soon, the McIntoshes were able to take home the food needed to feed their family.
They bounced back, and within two weeks, the group was back at the Food Bank — this time, to volunteer.
“It is a great feeling knowing that someone has helped you, but it feels even better when you can help someone back. It is a warm feeling,” Robert McIntosh said. “We get a lot of satisfaction out of helping.”
Since taking home provisions about one year ago, the McIntoshes have become some of the Food Banks most dependable, trusted and willing volunteers, said Joe Bill Brannon, the director of the Statesboro Food Bank.
“Anytime that we have something going on, they are there for us,” Brannon said. “All I have to do is call; if they are anywhere near, and free, they are here.”
Robert and Lynn have participated at the bank and in the community to both gather and dispense food.
Even their daughter, Carroll; son, Marshall; and nephew, Miles, have gotten in on the action.
“It is satisfying to help someone who is in a situation like we were,” said Carroll Cox, the McIntoshes’ adopted daughter. “To see people’s smiles makes it wonderful — you realize that you’ve opened another door for them.”
A case like the McIntoshes’ is not unusual, according to Brannon. He said many of the people assisted by the Food Bank, despite popular public opinion, are not homeless or unemployed.
“Most people think about the Food Bank and assume we are feeding a bunch of deadbeats. That is not true,” Brannon said. “The average person that comes here comes just a few times; and they are all good, hard-working people who care about other people.
“The people that come in here are people like Lynn and Robert. They’re not the homeless living under a bridge,” he continued. “I would say that at least of one-third of people we help are people no one would ever expect us to serve. The other two-thirds are mostly folks who are working — for minimum wage — and have had their hours cut down from 40 to 30 for fewer hours.”
The Statesboro Food Bank serves hundreds of people of all ages every year through monthly food provisions and special giveaways.
The organization survives on donations from local organizations and individuals.
“We have two missions. One is to feed the hungry. The other is to be good stewards to the people donating food and money to us,” Brannon said. “Once people in Bulloch County realize who it is we’re truly serving, they are always willing and excited to help out.”
A major portion of the Food Bank’s funds is contributed by the United Way.
United Way of Southeast Georgia is currently conducting its 2012-13 fundraising campaign, which kicked off in September.
“That is the cash that pays the electric bill,” Brannon said. “We can have volunteers and food, but wouldn’t survive without the United Way.”
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.