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Ameris Bank collected over 9,878 items for the Colquitt County Food Bank during its 2011 Helping Fight Hunger campaign. Also, Ronnie Marchant, left, president of Ameris Bank, presented a check for $7,759.55 to Andy Jordan, executive director of the food bank.

Going into the holiday season, many Colquitt County residents consider this a time to give and give back, and the Colquitt Food Bank is an organization that consistently receives these holiday donations.

Andy Jordan, executive director of the food bank, said that he wanted to thank the county and community for the donations foodwise and moneywise that they have given.

“We’re probably up about 15 to 20 percent over 2010 for the need in the community,” he said.

He said the community has been so good to the food bank over the years.

“Altogether, we’ll probably get in 15,000 pounds of food between Ameris Bank, the mail carriers’ drive in May and other organizations,” he said.

He added that Ameris Bank had increased its donation from last year.

“There’s probably 4,000 pounds of food back there,” he also said.

This is the bank’s second annual Helping Fight Hunger food drive, and this year, they donated more than 10,000 items and a check for the company match of $7,759.55. Company-wide, Ameris donated more than 152,702 items and $115,578.75 in monetary donations, by company match, to food banks across their company footprint, said Ann Hoffman, who is a branch manager for the bank.

“We are privileged and honored to have been able to partner with and provide the Colquitt Food and Clothing Bank with the donations collected from the abundant support and success coming out of our 2nd Annual Helping Fight Hunger initiative,” said Ronnie Marchant, president of Ameris Bank. “We are fortunate to be part of a community that responded so overwhelmingly to ‘Helping Fight Hunger,’ for together we collected over 10,000 items and $7,700 in the Moultrie area. This would not have been so successful without the support of our business partners and members of our community.

“We feel very blessed to be able to host such an initiative that will be able to help so many in need,” Marchant said. “We know that one food drive won’t completely eliminate the need, but we hope our efforts will be able to provide help to those in need within our community.”

Aside from donations, Jordan said 14 organizations volunteer time working at the food bank. The groups include churches and they alternate week-to-week. They work five days a week, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Individuals volunteer their time as well.

“We’re having a lot of people coming in volunteering. We’ve been fortunate with people who want to volunteer,” he said.

Actually, Jordan himself started as a volunteer in January of 1992, at the suggestion of his late wife, Viola.

“This January will be 20 years,” he said.

The volunteers are needed, he said, especially this time of year when the food bank receives the bulk of its donations.

“People are constantly bringing in food,” he said.

As a rule, he said, there are ten schools that do a food drive during the Christmas season each year.

“We’ll spend three days picking up food from schools,” he added.

He said he and the volunteers start in September putting together the food packages for the needy families, which includes several bags holding 10 to 12 items in each bag.

“The fire department comes in every year and helps us. Those boys do a good job,” he said.

This is the third year that the firefighters have participated, and he said they are the bulk of the force that comes in to help pack the bags.

Some food items that are really needed are peanut butter, tuna, pasta, and mac and cheese, which he said was great for kids.

“Canned fruit is another item we don’t have enough of,” he added.

Jordan said that this month and next month are the two biggest months for donations and they are relied on to carry the food bank into the next year.

“In general, most people are very generous,” he said.

The families in need are identified through referrals from agencies like the Department of Family and Children Services, Red Cross, Mental Health, and the Community Action Council.

“Most of our referrals are coming through Mental Health and DFACS,” he said.

He said that a couple of churches like Heritage and Life Spring did refer families, as well.

“We don’t want anybody in Colquitt County to go hungry, if we know about it,” he said.

However, he said, the only way they know about it is if people will apply at these agencies.

Jordan said the food bank receives good quality food; there was nothing there that he and his volunteers wouldn’t go home and eat themselves, he said.

He said Sanderson Farms gives the food bank about 250 pounds of chicken a month and that he picks up a truck load of food donated from Save-A-Lot every Monday. National Beef makes donations too, he said.

He also uses the money donations to buy items like tomato sauce, when they are on sale at different stores. He believes in spending wisely and trying to get the most for their dollars.

“It’s the community’s money we’re spending and that’s the way I look at it,” he said.

In return for the generosity that the food bank has received from the community, Jordan has turned around and helped another charity in the community that is being spear-headed by a couple of local churches — Backpacks of Hope. In brief, this is a mission to specifically identify children, through the school’s social workers, that are in need of food. Each week, food is collected and packed in backpacks to be sent home with these children over the weekend. Jordan pulls “kid friendly” items which he receives at the food bank and passes them along to the Backpack of Hope programs.

For more information about the food bank, making a donation, or volunteering, call Jordan at 229-985-7725.

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