JONESVILLE — Even with more donations of homegrown produce during the summer months, keeping the shelves full at the Tri-County (Tri-C) Christian Crisis Ministry in Jonesville can be an ongoing challenge.
Heather Macy, executive director of the ministry, said there are certain items always needed just because they go out the door as quickly as they come in. Among them are jelly, canned fruit, crackers, canned soup, macaroni and cheese, pintos and other dried beans, shortening and cooking oil, spaghetti noodles and spaghetti and/or tomato sauce.
Donations of fruit juices and fruit drinks such as Sunny D also offer clients healthier choices.
Macy said the Yadkin Valley United Fund is one of the largest contributors to the ministry. In addition, most of the 35 churches in the Elkin area donate canned food and nonperishable items on an ongoing basis, she said.
The ministry, located at 440 W. Main St., was set up to provide a buffer for clients who may run out of food, generally lasting three or four days.
“It just depends on the amount of stock that we have if we can do that,” she said. “If we’re running low, then we can’t give them as much.”
Toiletry and hygiene items such as shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper and soap are also in high demand. “I think that’s pretty much what we need the most right now,” she said.
Macy said the ministry also needs powered laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid. When people bring in large containers or buckets of laundry detergent, she and the volunteers at the center pour it into quart-size plastic bags so they can distribute it among more clients.
The Tri-C has a client’s choice food pantry, where volunteers guide them around and show them what is available. “If their kids like Frosty Flakes or Cheerios, they get that choice,” she said.
Macy said the amount they can get at one time is determined by the size of their families.
The good thing about the summer months is that the ministry receives gets donations of fresh produce from local gardeners, the Elkin Baptist Church community garden and gardeners from other churches as well as the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, located in Winston-Salem.
“Different people bring stuff in at different times,” she said. “They may bring it in just one time or they may bring it in several times through the growing season. It’s whenever they have an abundance.”
Macy said the Food Lion in Jonesville is the ministry’s main source of fruit and vegetable donations.
If the Tri-C receives a lot of produce that needs to be used right away, such as tomatoes, Macy said she and the volunteers will set it out in the front room so all the clients will have access to them before they go bad. Vegetables with a longer shelf life such as potatoes and corn can be distributed for a longer period.
The ministry cannot accept donations of home-canned fruits and vegetables. “They have to be either fresh or commercially canned,” Macy said.
Last year, a group of area deer hunters called Backyard Bow Pro partnered with Combs Butcher Shop in Elkin to provide ground deer meat for the center to distribute to struggling families. “They grind it all up and put it in one-pound packages,” she said. “We can only receive the deer meat after it’s been processed.”
Last year, Macy said Tri-C received 200 to 300 pounds of processed deer meat. “We froze it and then distributed it out to our clients,” she said.
Hunters who are interested in donating deer meat to the Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry should check with Combs Butcher Shop about requirements.
With school getting ready to start back, Macy said the ministry also will have some bookbags and supplies for families who need them “but the supply will be limited.”
The Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry is open Mondays from 1 to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers are needed to serve as clerks, food pantry workers, interviewers and translators.
“We have a lot of different opportunities for volunteering,” Macy said, including working in the container and pallet garden on the center’s patio. “We did that on our own last year,” she said. “We’d love to have a group or different individuals who would like to come and take that on as a project.”
As for people who may need assistance filling out the food stamp applications, Macy said she and Tri-C volunteers can refer them to Second Harvest Food Bank in Winston-Salem. Staff there will call the people in need, fill out an application based on information they take over the phone, send it to the applicant to sign and provide a stamp so it can be mailed to the local Department of Social Services.
Once DSS receives the applicaton, someone there will call the applicant to schedule an eligibility screening.
For more information on the Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry, call 336-526-1089 during regular operating hours.
Kathy Chaffin can be reached at 336-258-4058.