By Rick Lott
Special for the Effingham Herald
RINCON — In spite of unseasonably cold weather, Manna House Director Lisa Bush and 80 of Effingham’s finest volunteers made sure 670 families enjoyed a full Thanksgiving meal. The traditional holiday food distribution event is called, “Boxes of Hope,” and is provided by Effingham County’s Manna House food pantry.
Bush said she has been doing this since she joined Manna House in 1999. She said it was a smaller scale event in the early days and the organization has partnered with local churches and businesses to make it happen.
“In the beginning we held the event at the First Baptist Church of Rincon because of their logistics, but as it’s grown, more churches got involved with it and businesses so it’s become more of a community-wide effort,” she said.
To put the event on now, they have all the vehicles line up at Rincon’s McComber Ball Parks and drive through neighborhoods, following a series of arrows leading to the Manna House facilities.
Bush said that people are used to lining up beginning at 5:30 a.m. to be sure of their place in line. What is different about this particular food distribution is, of course, the turkey, chicken and all the necessary “fixin’s.” That means stuffing, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, corn and green beans along with fruit.
“We try to partner with a lot of different donors that might say – hey, put us down and we challenge the community to donate brownies so that’s another item that we’ll add.”
In addition to food items provided by businesses and corporate partners, Manna House also is able to purchase food at a substantial saving from Second Harvest, based in Savannah. While 670 meals were prepared for this year’s event, at the height of the COVID pandemic, they served 800 cars.
Bush said that at the beginning of 2021, they started seeing numbers of people being served going down on a weekly basis to about the mid-200’s. She also added that with the extra financial stresses now, numbers are climbing back up to the 450-500 level.
In addition to food donations, people may “sponsor” a food box for $12. While that’s not even close to the retail value of a box, donations and cost savings by purchasing through Second Harvest and others, keep the costs low, enabling them to serve even more people.
Bush said that last month they gave away 94,903 lbs. of food. She said, “We know it’s God, we believe that here, that He keeps pushing food our way that we didn’t expect.”
The public is welcome to donate and to volunteer in both the food pantry and the thrift store operations and the need for both is ongoing. Lisa said that even the small act of shopping at their thrift store provides some of the necessary funding to enable Manna House to continue giving to the community.