Valdosta Daily Times

October 17, 2010

Volunteers give up a Saturday to help food bank

Dawn Castro
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — An estimated 500-600 volunteers supported the Second Harvest Food Bank Saturday in an effort to feed those in need.

America’s Second Harvest of South Georgia hosted a Make A Difference Day event at the Valdosta food bank warehouse.

Make A Difference Day is an annual national event asking people to volunteer to make a difference in their communities.

Volunteers from preteens to adults assisted the food bank with inventory, cleaning rooms and items, sorting, building commodity boxes for Thanksgiving deliveries and outside projects around the food bank building.

Shanda Smith, director of volunteer services, said she was delighted to see the turnout.

“We had about 300 volunteers who pre-registered and about 500-600 actually showed up,” she said. “After today, we will be prepared for Thanksgiving.”

Smith said the 81,000 pounds of food collected will be distributed to their other food bank warehouses in Albany and Thomasville as well as local soup kitchens and church pantries.

Some of the volunteers who gave up their Saturday to assist were middle and high school students.

Valdosta Middle School student Angelique Carter, 12, was at the event with her mother and cousin. She was part of a small Future Business Leaders of America group from school which not only worked hard but enjoyed doing it.

“I like volunteering,” she said. “It’s always good to help others who may not be as wealthy as you are.”

Volunteering at the food bank was not her first experience with giving back. She also volunteered at Harvey’s Grocery store by bagging customers’ groceries for tips. Angelique said she is learning at a young age that you have to work for your money and help others at the same time. Her mother, Angel, sees the volunteer work as a teaching tool for the youth.

Home school student Clay Hurdle, 16, said he tries to live by the 4-H motto “Make the best better.” He also volunteered his time along with fellow 4-H member Milo Mirate, 14.

“Ive been coming here to volunteer for a year now,” Hurdle said, “and I really enjoy it. The people are nice, and I feel really good when I leave here.”

Hurdle said he gets satisfaction knowing he has helped someone and is making a difference. He said what he has learned through the 4-H club gives him the drive to keep coming back.

Mirate agreed and added, “ I just wish I could come more often.”

He is vice president of the 4-H county council, has all honors classes at Valdosta High School and is working toward the International Baccalaureate program, among other activities.

While many were hard at work, the smaller children had the opportunity to enjoy bounce houses, carnival games, the Valdosta Police Department Mobile Command Center and Smoky the Remote-Control Fire Dog.

Smith said this event is not to be confused with the Make A Difference event that Keep Lowndes-Valdosta Beautiful holds.

“Each organization has its own Make A Difference event,” she said. “Because of scheduling reasons, we have ours the week before KLVB has theirs. We try to keep the same Saturday each year, but that doesn’t always work out, and besides, we don’t want to have the events on the same Saturday for volunteer reasons.”

Keep Lowndes/Valdosta Beautiful, the City of Valdosta and Lowndes County partner for clean-ups on Make A Difference Day next weekend. In Valdosta, KLVB coordinates a neighborhood cleanup, with a second cleanup site in the county.

“Since we are having multiple sites for this event much like we did for Rivers Alive (another annual KLVB cleanup project), we are asking those who would like to volunteer to call the KLVB office so they can be assigned to one of the locations,” says H. Aaron Strickland, KLVB executive director. “This method allows us to put volunteers where they are needed.”

In 2009, 161 volunteers removed an estimated 32.9 tons of junk, litter and debris from cleanup sites, Strickland says.

Additional volunteers are needed for the 2010 cleanup. Volunteers must call KLVB to pre-register.

KLVB’s Make A Difference Day is scheduled for 8:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 23. Call Strickland at (229) 671-3698.