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Grocery giveaway a success
United Way pantry feeds 500 Liberty Co. households
web 0930 Mobile pantry 1
Three-year-old Amaiya Cotton lends a hand to United Way volunteer Dean Sikes during a mobile food pantry in Midway on Thursday. - photo by Denise Etheridge

A scene familiar in third-world countries is being played out right here in Liberty County. Local residents are going hungry. Scores of people, some elderly and infirm, some mothers with young children, lined up to receive bagged groceries during a mobile food pantry Thursday in Midway.

“I’ve been out here since nine o’ clock this morning and I can hardly walk with this leg,” Leola Pray, 81, said, leaning on a cane. The Walthourville widow said she survives on a small income and is grateful for the food pantry assistance.

Marcia Cotton, 40, came to the mobile food pantry with her two youngest children. Cotton and her husband moved to Hinesville from Illinois in January 2009. They are both unemployed and seeking work. Cotton has eight children ranging in age from 18 months to 21 years old. The eldest child does not live at home, she said.

“I’m trying to keep smiling,” Cotton said. “We’re going to keep on filling out applications and try to stay prayerful.”

“We can see (the need) on paper,” United Way of the Coastal Empire/Liberty Executive Director Jennifer Darsey said. But holding mobile food banks like these clearly illustrates a widespread lack of basic necessities in the community, especially among the old and the very young, she said.

Not everyone who came to the mobile food pantry is chronically poor, according to Darsey. Some of the clients served Thursday received assistance for the first time, she said.

“This emergency food drop serves a population of people who don’t get served in the typical manner because they don’t yet qualify for food stamps and other types of government assistance,” Darsey said.

The mobile food pantry began at 11 a.m. at the Midway Civic Center, but a line began forming before 9 a.m., when United Way volunteers arrived to sort and bag food, according to volunteer Deidre Howell.

“It brought me to tears to see people waiting for food before the volunteers got here to pack it,” Howell said.

Darsey said volunteers distributed a total of 10,000 pounds of groceries to 500 households on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each client was asked to fill out an application, for tracking purposes, before receiving two “heaping bags” filled with about 20 pounds of food, she said.

A previous mobile food pantry, which the local United Way held in April at Walthourville City Hall, served 345 households, according to Darsey.

“We’ve nearly doubled (the number of clients),” she said. “This shows how big the need is.”

America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia delivered the nonperishable food for the mobile food pantry, and FEMA funding paid for the emergency food drop, Darsey explained. The local United Way branch facilitated the effort here, she said.

Regular United Way volunteers teamed up with Century Link employees and students from Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici to form food-packing assembly lines. The volunteers sorted and packed food and assisted some clients further by carrying bags of groceries to their vehicles.

To volunteer or for more information, call Darsey at 368-4282 or email

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