Two food pantries, in Surfside Beach and Murrells Inlet, both helping significantly more people than a year ago, have vastly different supplies of food, illustrating the vital importance of food collection drives.
On Tuesday, Karen Wood, food coordinator at South Strand Helping Hand in Surfside Beach, was putting the last box of food collected by schools, churches and a community drive in Indigo Creek onto the pantry shelves. Together, the drives gathered an estimated 25,000 pounds of canned and boxed food.
In Murrells Inlet at the South Strand Assembly of God Food Bank, Vicky Bell prays for a source of canned and dried goods. “It’s not good at all,’’ Bell says. “I have no canned goods other than soup. I can’t get any canned food.’’
Lowe’s Food and Bi-Lo both had recent drives that ensured enough food to get through November -- along with $2,000 in purchases. The Assembly of God Food Bank served 32 new families in October and 30 new families in November.
“We can’t keep doing this,’’ Bell says although she doesn’t know how she can turn away people in need. The operation serves some 300 families a month -- a year ago the total was 200. “We’re sending out messages to the congregation to bring certain items’’ but what she really needs is a community collection of canned green beans, boxes of mac and cheese and jars of peanut butter.
“I’m trying to break myself from saying ‘I don’t know where’ [the food will come from]. I just keep praying and the Lord sends it.’’
The supply at South Strand Helping Hand, one of the four food pantries supported by the United Way of Horry County, came from St. James Middle School, Burgess, Lakeside and Seaside elementary schools and four churches: Belin Memorial United Methodist; St. Michael’s Catholic; Surfside United Methodist; and Trinity Presbyterian.
Wood says demand at Helping Hand continues to increase. “Twenty families in a day was busy, now the number is 25.’’ South Strand Helping Hand served 867 people in October and more than 800 in November. Previously, monthly totals in the 700s were more typical.
“Without those drives, we’d be in big trouble,’’ Wood says. Throughout the area, churches of many denominations are lifelines for major food pantries such as the three Helping Hand nonprofits (Myrtle Beach, North Strand, South Strand) and CAP in Conway. The name itself means Churches Assisting People. Other churches, like South Strand Assembly of God, operate food pantries.
One of those is the St. Delight Community Outreach of Horry County in Little River. The Rev. Charles Randall, pastor of St. Delight, reports the same increases in demand as at other food distribution centers. St. Delight served 41 new households in November -- compared to 19 new households in November 2011. The total number of households served was 111 in November, up from 79 in November 2011.
A major source of canned and boxed food comes from an annual drive started six years ago by the Rotary Club of Little River and to be held on Sunday. Little River Lions and North Strand Optimists joined the effort the last couple of years. The drive netted over 6,000 pounds of food last year and Randall’s volunteers distributed it over several months. In a related project, the Rotary Club of North Myrtle Beach collected 3,409 pounds of food on Nov. 17.