County Extension Director Donna Cliett spends many of her waking hours putting food packages together at the West Point Food Pantry inside the old Mary Holmes College gymnasium.
The food assortments are put together by volunteers and are provided monthly to 439 Clay County families who are in need. That’s almost 800 people total.
This holiday season the Food Pantry is not just in need of food and donations to keep local families fed, but the institution that has been around for over 15 years needs volunteer labor.
Cliett says she hopes that those who volunteer will continue to help out even past the holidays, for the year-round organization.
“We do a lot of physical labor,” Cliett said. “Most people do not realize until they go in to volunteer how much physical labor we do.”
Cliett says that shelf stockers are needed, as well as distributors for the families.
“This is a strictly volunteer thing,” Cliett said. “Even when we go down to Wal-Mart to pick up donated food, it’s volunteer.”
Even after food is delivered, it needs to be stocked. Then the stocked food is packaged, and Cliett says the pantry tries to fit each family’s needs.
“If there is a family with special needs, like if someone needs a certain type of food, we try to taylor their package for them,” Cliett said.
The normal menu is balanced between fruits, vegetables, breads, milk and some meat.
Cliett says that with the food supply the pantry currently has, sending out over 8,000 cans of food a month, the organization is about maxed out on the number of families it can provide food.
Each family has to be certified, based upon guidelines provided by Mississippi Food Services.
Once certified, the pantry examines the family’s needs.
The pantry’s normal business hours are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., but Cliett says the workers are up there at all hours of the day making sure things are prepared properly and on time for the families.
Cliett says that schools like West Point High School, South Side and Church Hill have all delivered to the pantry in the last few days. Churches in town are regular donors throughout the year, and Mississippi State students from the campus’ Day One program recently came to town to help.
Cliett says that more local help is needed, however, in order to make sure the daily work of getting these foods ready is done.
Anyone wishing to help the Food Pantry can call 295-7124 or email Cliett at firstname.lastname@example.org