"It was especially significant [since] July is often a very high demand time for our food pantry because so many of the children are out of school," said Lt. Michelle Wilson with the local Salvation Army. "Parents are providing for children for multiple meals a day as they're not normally used to when the kids are in school. So July is a really high [demand] time. It's also a time when our surplus donations that we perhaps had from early on in the year are starting to run low and actually we had just sent out a plea [to supporters to help] stock our shelves.
"... To be the benefactors of the Gerdau [donations] and the different people that came alongside the United Way and supported through the food drive, it was just the perfect timing for us to be able to receive those basic staples like peanut butter and jelly and cereal or those items that we were starting to run low on," she said, adding The Salvation Army filled 177 grocery orders in July. "So we're just extremely grateful to have received those items and appreciative to the community for their support."
Organized by the United Way of Bartow County in partnership with the Georgia Department of Labor's Employer Committee and Bartow Collaborative, the food drive helped restock the dwindling shelves at three area food banks. Along with The Salvation Army, Christmas in July also assisted North Bartow Community Services and New Beginnings Food Outreach.
"The overall response for Christmas in July this year was overwhelming," said Brenda Morehouse, president of United Way of Bartow County. "It was probably the biggest drive we've ever had. We had Gerdau raise several thousand cans of food for all three food pantries that United Way has, which is North Bartow Community Services, New Beginnings Food Outreach and The Salvation Army.
"We [also] had several companies around town, including Shaw, Publix, Anheuser-Busch and WBHF, who did very well with their nonperishable canned food item drive. [Overall] over 3,000 nonperishable food items were donated."
Wrapping up on July 29, the campaign also collected school supplies from the community, which were distributed during the Bartow Give a Kid a Chance event.
"With the school supplies, Shaw Plant 62 and the team there raised several thousand school supply items for United Way's program, which [donated the items] to the Bartow Give a Kid a Chance program," Morehouse said. "Then we had several places like Cartersville Blood Assurance, Anheuser-Busch, several other Shaw plants and a large portion of donations came from Publix Super Market for school supplies to help over 2,000 less fortunate children start school in a positive way in Bartow County.
"Then we had a cash drive so that we were able to go and buy supplies that we came up short on because sometimes we get more of the cheaper items like pencils and crayons and not enough of the expensive items like backpacks. We raised $6,713 to go toward backpacks, food and other school supplies for people in Bartow County. Cash donations were raised through WBHF, an anonymous donor who gave us $5,000, the [Adairsville] Lions Club, the Cartersville Daily Tribune [News and] Georgia Power. ... It was a huge community effort. Everybody pulled together," she said, adding other groups that contributed to Christmas in July included Toyo Tire, Cartersville government employees, Bartow County government employees, Etowah Rotary Club, HoneyBaked Ham, NorthSide Bank and Direct TV of Cartersville.