"It helps tremendously because during the summer months with the kids out of school, we have more people that come in," said Brandie Holcomb, secretary and treasurer of New Beginnings Food Outreach. "It hits at a perfect time for us because right now with the economy being as low as it is, our food supplies are down and ... we're seeing tremendous amounts of people that are laid off that's been the working people for years and now they're laid off. Since the first of the year we've probably [given] out double what we did last year at this time if not a little bit more."
Formed in 1999, the Acworth nonprofit is experiencing a more than 40 percent increase in its services over the past few years. New Beginnings Food Outreach distributes boxes of food products -- courtesy of Publix and the Atlanta Community Food Bank -- to financially struggling individuals on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 7034 Glade Road.
"Last year at this time we probably gave out on the average about 30 boxes a day [in] two hours," said Holcomb, adding in 2009 the nonprofit provided 339,800 pounds of food to 11,654 individuals, which was an increase of more than 4,000 people from 2008. "Here lately on a two-hour day we're giving anywhere from 50 to 60 or 70 boxes. So the demand is so much greater now."
Through the end of July, the Christmas in July campaign is requesting people donate various nonperishable items, including peanut butter, instant potatoes, macaroni and cheese, canned meat, rice, spaghetti sauce, canned vegetables, biscuit or cornbread mixes, dried beans, pasta, instant grits, canned fruit, jelly, instant oatmeal, canned soup, canned chili, cake and dessert mixes, crackers, cereal, pudding mix, baby food, baby formula, diapers and toilet tissue.
Along with food, the campaign also is collecting school supplies through July 12. Area residents are encouraged to donate items at participating collection sites, including the United Way of Bartow County, local banks, Publix, Shaw manufacturing facilities and The Daily Tribune News. To obtain donation boxes, organizations need to call the United Way at 770-386-1677.
Needed school materials include crayons, colored pencils, No. 2 pencils, pocket pencil sharpeners, erasers, black and blue ink pens, folders, primary writing tablets, primary pencils, blunt-end scissors, 12-inch rulers with centimeters, glue sticks and hand sanitizers.
"So many kids go back to school on that first day [without supplies] because their parents don't have the money. Of course it's worse now because of the economy," said Bartow Collaborative Director Linda Walker. "Do you remember how it was on the first day of school? You went I'm sure with a new pair of shoes, a new outfit, a new haircut and you had all your little school supplies. Well not all kids have that. So it's a way to help kids hopefully on that first day get off to a good start."
The donated school supplies will be distributed during the Bartow Give a Kid a Chance event on July 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The outreach initiative is being organized by the Bartow Collaborative, with assistance by Tallatoona Community Action Partnership, area churches and the Christmas in July campaign. Proceeds of the DOL Employer Committee's Hoops for Hope basketball fundraiser will go toward purchasing jeans, backpacks and T-shirts for the event.
In order to receive the free items and services -- backpacks filled with school supplies, jeans, T-shirts, haircuts, and dental, vision and hearing screenings -- parents will need to register their children on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Adults will not be required to disclose income information, but they must provide proof of residency. The four registration locations also will serve as the distribution sites. They include Cartersville Civic Center, the Euharlee Commissary, Manning Mill Park in Adairsville and South Central Middle School in Emerson.
For more information about Christmas in July, contact the United Way at 770-386-1677, the Georgia DOL at 770-387-3760 or Bartow Collaborative at 770-773-7342. More details about registering for Bartow Give a Kid a Chance can be obtained by calling the Bartow Collaborative or Jessica Mitcham at Tallatoona CAP, 770-382-4222.