Christian Social Ministries supplied several days worth of food to 160 households on Monday with help from the East Georgia Regional Auxiliary, whose members collected and donated all the fixings for 77 family Thanksgiving meals and purchased 100 gift cards for turkeys or hams.
"Yesterday was the biggest day we ever had," John Long, the director of Christian Social Ministries, said Tuesday. "We had to stop at 160 households."
About 15 or 20 people were turned away when the food ran out, he said. But the food pantry will be open for another distribution the Monday after Thanksgiving.
"We'll be open Monday because we're sure a lot of people exhausted their means with the holiday," Long said.
Christian Social Ministries, affiliated with the Ogeechee River Southern Baptist Association, appreciates the help of the hospital auxiliary and other donors, he added.
The ministry operates a thrift store and food pantry at 9941 U.S. Highway 301 S. in Statesboro, where a food distribution is held each Monday from 1-5 p.m. Each family is allowed to pick up groceries twice a month. Each distribution, Long said, is intended to provide enough food for home preparation for four or five days.
At its second thrift store and pantry location, on U.S. Highway 80 West near Portal, the ministry holds a food distribution once a month.
From the Ogeechee River Southern Baptist Association office at 17 N. College St., the association's ministry is also open the second and fourth Monday of each month to provide help with rent and utilities for qualifying families, up to twice a year per family.
Christian Social Ministries partners with America's Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia for reduced-cost food supplies. Several businesses, schools and other organizations contribute through food drives, and Commissioner Roy Thompson forwards food items donated by visitors to his Christmas lights display.
The ministry is trying to make a real difference throughout the year, said Long. He notes that when the food distributions began in the fall of 2009, just 17 households turned out that first Monday. The need has grown and appears deep as well as widespread, he says.
"When you've got people who come and will sit there two, three or four hours to get food, those people are in need," Long said. "They're not there to take advantage."
Christian Social Ministries is a 501(c)(3) organization for tax-deductible contributions.
For their Sharing Thanksgiving program, each of the East Georgia Regional Auxiliary's 74 members donated, filling a shopping bag with items from a list. Three extra bags were filled.
The items included stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, fruit, instant mashed potatoes, gravy and candy. Bi-Lo provided the shopping bags.
East Georgia Regional Medical Center contributed the $1,000 that the auxiliary used to buy the 100 Bi-Lo gift cards, said Auxiliary President Lois Taylor.
"So far this year we've volunteered about 14,000 hours," Taylor reported, describing the auxiliary's work in the hospital and the community.
"We're always on the lookout to get more people to volunteer because the more people you have, the easier it is on everybody," she said.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.