This month 429 Clay County families are going to be fed thanks to the Project Homestead Food Pantry.
That’s roughly 850 family members who are receiving food they would not normally be able to obtain because of the volunteer efforts of those associated with the local food pantry.
Donna Cliett, who has 25 years of experience with the Mississippi State Extension Service and leads the charge at Clay County’s food pantry spoke to the West Point Rotary Club on Thursday about the ever-growing need for food and volunteers at the pantry.
“Volunteers are always needed, and food is always needed,” Cliett told the club, which recently donated over 500 canned food goods to the Food Pantry. Cliett added that the operation was sad to lose one of its key volunteers and former Rotarian, Walker Dyess who recently became employed by BancorpSouth in Tupelo. “Walker would show up everyday, Monday through Thursday, and he would sort food and stock shelves. We are proud for him, but we do miss him.”
Cliett said that some volunteers come on a weekly basis, and some come on a monthly basis.
“Our local employers have been very supportive of us,” she said. “Some allow their employees to come and volunteer for two hours, one day out of the week.”
The Clay County pantry started in the 1990s, as Cliett describes “literally in a closet.” Out of the dozens of agencies that operated under the title of Project Homestead, Clay County is the only one left in the state.
“All of the other agencies have closed,” Cliett said. “Other counties could not make it work, but Clay County has made it work.”
When the organization first began, it was only able to serve families every three months, and it was not a large amount of food. Today, the Food Pantry serves over 400 families each month, and the menu provides much more of a variety and quantity.
That’s largely thanks to a partnership with the Mississippi Food Network. Each client that is served is certified by MFN.
This partnership allows the Clay operation to accept donations from companies like Wal-Mart, which donates daily to the Food Pantry through its Feed America program.
“It has been a great boon to us,” Cliett said.
The Food Pantry has also benefited from a local partnership with Community Counseling Services, which has allowed the Food Pantry to move its operation into the gymnasium building at the old Mary Holmes College campus.
Cliett says that CCS has given generously its facilities without charging for the space or utilities.
“Community Counseling has been great to us,” Cliett said. “They have allowed us the space for shelves and we’ve been able to bring in a refrigerator and a freezer.”
This has allowed the Food Pantry to give out more perishable items like salads and frozen meats.
Cliett says that the organization serves many single families and elderly people.
“If some of these clients did not get this food every month, they would have to decide whether they are going to buy medicine or food,” Cliett said.
The Food Pantry is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. for food pick ups. Volunteers are needed throughout the day and week. Anyone wishing to donate food or time may contact Cliett at 494-5371.
Cliett was the guest of Rotarian Dr. David Cheatham.