Celebrate Central’s Food Bank

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By Mia Freneaux

    When we were young, it never occurred to us to ask where all the presents under the tree came from on Christmas Day.  They just appeared.   Likewise, many folks may be like me and never wonder how all the food in the Central Food Bank Barrels gets to those who need it.  Meet Pete and Anna Marie Grissom, the “Santa Clauses of Central”, 2 unassuming, modest people who single handedly run all the aspects of our food bank.  Every weekday, 52 weeks a year, Pete and Anna Marie drive to all the drop spots in town, pick up all the donations, take them to the climate controlled warehouse they built themselves, sort them, shelve them, then bag them to take to the distribution center.  Every weekday, without fail.  This would be a tremendous job for a younger person to tackle, it is amazing when you learn that Pete and Anna Marie are senior citizens.  Pete retired from his trucking business after having 2 strokes.  The doctors claimed he would never walk again, but Pete proved them all wrong and, along with Anna Marie, jumped right into helping the food bank.

    The Central Food Bank was begun in 1989.  It was the brainchild of Roy Nettles, Bill Westbrook, and (then) Councilman Doug Welborn.  All the food was stored in Doug’s small office at the corner of Sullivan and Hooper.  Pete and Anna Marie began helping out there part time, then took over the entire operation in 1993, and they haven’t stopped yet.  They have a Board of Directors who handle the paperwork, but the legwork all depends on them.  During this time, Pete has battled a bout of cancer, and Anna Marie has had to deal with vision problems, but that has never slowed them down.  At an age when most people feel their lives are over, Pete and Anna Marie are filled with the zest for living.  When asked why, they said they absolutely love the work they do for the food bank.  They hope they never have to give it up! 

    The Central Food Bank is operated strictly on donations.  They get no federal subsidies at all.  People apply to receive the food, needing only their name, address, social security number, and the number of persons in their family to be included in the program.  While there are those few who abuse this system, as Anna Marie says, “We have to give people the benefit of the doubt.”  They won’t allow those truly in need to suffer because of other’s abuse.  All food donated is given to Central residents; both Pete and Anna Marie said that even in apparently affluent Central there is great need.  Senior citizens, handicapped individuals, and single moms make up most of their clientele.  Those in need may pick up groceries from the distribution center at the Central Fire Department for 3 months.  Then they must take a 2 month break before receiving again.  Food is available between 8:30-4:30 Monday thru Friday, year round.  Individuals who wish to receive goods should contact an area church for information. 

    Pete and Anna Marie work with area churches such as St. Alphonsus, Zoar Baptist, Greenwell Springs Baptist, and Blackwater United Methodist to receive donations.  The local Boy and Girl Scout troops have been “a big help.”  Curves here on Wax Road has an annual food drive for them.  They also receive the results of food drives held at local schools.  A source of pride for our town is the fact that every school in Central, public and private, donates to the food bank. The Grissoms have been very touched by the attitude of the students at Tanglewood and Bellingrath.  They relate how the students’ “faces just glow” as they help to load the cans of food.  “They are so willing to help and learn,” said Anna Marie.  In this sense, they are passing on the legacy of generosity that Pete witnessed growing up.  His father would travel all over the parish collecting donations of clothing, supplies, and money to take to the Orphanage at Jackson.  Pete and Anna Marie feel privileged to be able to show a new generation what a joy it is to give.  “We’ve got to teach the younger ones to reach out to people,” Pete stated.  Their mission thus extends beyond just the parameters of the Food Bank.

    How can you help Central’s Santas?  Drop off a check made out to the “Central Food Bank” to the Central Fire Department.  Monetary donations go toward “filling the gaps” in staples.  Buy paper bags from Winn Dixie – the Grissoms use those bags to package up the canned goods for delivery and buy them out of their own pocket.  Most of all, donate canned and dry goods through your church or the barrel at Winn Dixie.  Summertime is the most needy for the food bank; since children are not at school receiving subsidized meals the demand is great.  Last week alone, 10 bags were picked up at the Fire Department in 30 minutes – each bag holding 30 – 35 pounds of food.  Canned meat such as tuna, chicken, and Vienna sausages are most needed.  As Anna Marie says, “God always provides what we need.”  Here’s your chance to be His hands, the way the Grissoms have been His feet.

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