LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Church and Community Center is hungry for some donated food to get onto the plates of needy families for the Christmas holiday.
Darlene Jacobs, the executive director of the center, said this week that the center’s pantry was almost empty before 378 canned and dry goods were donated by Lumberton Junior High School, where students were encouraged to bring in at least three canned goods.
The pantry assists nearly 100,000 people a year, which means an average of 50 to 60 boxes of food exit the doors each day. That number traditionally increases to about 70 boxes a day during Christmas.
“It’s become a struggle,” said Darlene Jacobs, executive director of the center. “We had to buy $6,000 worth of food because of the increase in demand.”
She said the poor economy has been a double whammy — increasing demand, but also meaning fewer people able to donate.
Jacobs said that the center has come to depend on three local industries — Campbell’s Soup, which donates 2,000 pounds of a month; Mt. Aire Farms, which donates 1,600 pounds of chicken each month; and Nash Finch, a frequent contributor of an array of food items.
“We get donations from churches, individuals and community organizations,” she said. “We are still having a great need for more donations.”
She said the center has sent out notices and contacted churches asking for contributions.
“It’s a combination of efforts by the media and churches to keep the banner raised about the need and the issue of hunger in our county and across North Carolina,” Jacobs said.
The center also works to put the merry in Christmas in other ways.
On Thursday, it will begin taking applications for its Brighter Christmas Program. The program provides donated toys to needy families for Christmas presents. Campbell’s Soup donates roughly 100 bicycles each year.
“Last year we were able to help about 300 families,” Jacobs said. “We have the same expectation this year.”
An applicant to the program must provide documents such as a picture I.D. and birth certificates for children. A point system established by a team of community members, ranging from business people, community representatives and educators, is used to establish priority.
“We try to touch the racial and economic aspect by being diverse,” she said.
Jacobs expects nearly 500 applicants for the program. She said that when the toys run out, she will try to match the remaining applicants with sponsor families.
“People donate because it is the right thing to do,” Jacobs said. “Even though Robeson County faces a lot of challenges, people are giving. In some situations it could very well be you or me that is in need. I just believe in the generosity and kindness of folks to help those in need.”