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Neighbor's Pantry offers assistance for those in need

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Nestled in the Gilkey Community Center is a program that provides food for approximately 400 families per month.

Neighbor's Pantry, which began in 1997, has grown in its nearly 20 years in existence. The pantry, which began out of Little White Country Church, was first housed in a building behind B&J Satellite. After "moving around some," the pantry came to exist at the Gilkey Community Center in recent years, said Chris Davis, director of the pantry.

"This location is easy to get to, and we have lots of space," she said.

In order to be eligible for the pantry's services, you have to meet certain income criteria and be a resident of Rutherford County, Davis explained.

"If you get SNAP (food assistance) you automatically qualify," she said. Food is given away once each month, she continued, and is distributed during four pick up times. Applicants are given a color coded card that correlates with the date they are to return for food, Davis said.

Davis has been involved with the pantry since its inception.

"I talked to the pastor, and his mother-in-law had started a food pantry in Georgia," she said.

Each month food items vary, Davis said, but meats, breads, sweets, drinks and non-perishables are always provided. Local producers have donated items for the pantry, with other items coming from supermarkets and larger food organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank.

"What we provide is not enough to feed a family for a month, but it will help," she said.

Sharon Wilson, who is on the board for the pantry, said that boxes include items that a family could make a meal from. For example, if the pantry receives tomato sauce, that month's box will include pasta as well.

"I think we are larger and we have produce, which is unusual," Davis said. "We also provide meat, which many other food distributions don't."

The organization was a recipient of the RHI Legacy Foundation's first grant cycle, which provided funding for a much-needed additional walk-in freezer. The RHI Legacy Foundation has also provided health screenings for those who receive food.

Neighbor's Pantry also provides emergency boxes for families, Davis said.

"DSS or home health nurses can call us to let us know when someone doesn't have food," she said.

Volunteers are always needed, Wilson said. But, those who volunteer should be prepared to work hard and have their lives changed by the experience.

"It's work," she said. "It's not just walking up to someone and offering them a loaf of bread. There are a lot of people you get to know. We've all be in tears before by someone's situation, and we always try to refer people to other resources in our community."

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