“Families in that community are in fear about about how they will survive,” said Toren Anderson, a pantry spokesperson.
“The need keeps growing,” Anderson said. “They didn’t get any stimulus package. They don’t get unemployment and they were literally hungry.”
The pantry serves nearly 200 families from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Barnes estimates it will take another $250,000 to help feed the households through the end of the year.
Most donations come from the community. About 10% comes through assistance from Congregation B’nai Torah. The synagogue has an account with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and pays for donations to the pantry.
“We all know it’s a terrible time for most people who are not in a good position to begin with,” said Rose Haber, a member of the synagogue. " We are just so happy to help.”
When schools were open Haber and other members donated food to families through its Backpack Buddies program.
Barnes, Erin Olivier and Sonia Simon started the nonprofit food pantry.
Barnes and Sonia Simon have had ties to the Northwood area for the last several years and have funded weeklong stays at Camp Grace in Roberta, Georgia, for children from the community since 2015, Barnes said. When schools closed in March, the women knew there would be an immediate need for food, Barnes said.
Restaurant owner, Jason Sheetz, gave them the keys to his establishment, Under the Cork Tree, located at the Prado shopping center, to create a temporary pantry space. The women moved it to the small shopping center on Northwood Drive in early June. That structure will be demolished soon to make way for a new building in which the developer will donate space for the pantry, Barnes said. In the meantime, the pantry will set up at the former Publix at The Prado starting Tuesday.
The women who manage the pantry said the service has brought them joy during these troubled times of the pandemic.
“We call it, ‘love in action,‘” Anderson said. “We say we’re giving out ‘food, hope and love.‘”
The families served are giving back too. Several children volunteer at the pantry and families have made small monetary donations that totaled more than $4,000, Anderson said.
“I’ve never seen (this kind of thing) before,” a surprised Anderson added. “The families that we are serving actually put money in a basket and say here’s $5 for your organization. And that made us cry.”