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Feeding the hungry: one county, one child, at a time

By JONI WOOLF
www.americustimesrecorder.com

ELLAVILLE — The big white van pulls up to New Corinth Baptist Church on Spivey Street in Ellaville and the driver begins unloading food for the day’s luncheon. The logo on the van tells part of the story: it says Feeding the Valley, and that is why the truck is here today … to bring a nutritious, hot meal to children in the community who might not be enjoying one. Called Summer Café, the program is a joint effort of Feeding the Valley, New Corinth and other local churches and youth organizations to provide free summer meals to all children under age 18 who live in Schley County. Every day, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  until the end of July, the meals are available at New Corinth at 220 S. Spivey St.
Meeting the driver to help unload is Jason Thornton, who along with Doris Terry, has been preparing tables in the church’s kitchen wing for children who will be arriving soon. The space is brightly, colorfully decorated — a place that says “welcome” to those who enter.  Overseeing the entire program at New Corinth is Thornton’s mother, well-known Ellaville activist and county commissioner Angeli Smith, who has been a member of the church for decades. Smith, who is running to retain her seat on the board of commissioners, tells about the church’s involvement in the community, and how it has served as a place of ministry for the children who live near there. In fact, many are within walking distance, and the first ones begin to arrive as she speaks.
“We have about 20 every day,” Smith says. “In the past, we’ve had as many as 40, but this year, it runs about 20.”

Joni Woolf/Americus Times-Recorder: Doris Terry and Jason Thornton prepare to serve the meals to children in the Ellaville-Schley County community.

Joni Woolf/Americus Times-Recorder:
Doris Terry and Jason Thornton prepare to serve the meals to children in the Ellaville-Schley County community.

Two young girls walk past and head to the serving line where they are given a hot meal, a drink and utensils and then find a seat at a colorful table. Smith notes that part of the program is the teaching of table manners and etiquette; the children are fast learners, she says. The local church provides the brightly decorated space and the service staff. Feeding the Valley Food Bank (whose sub-title is Gathering Food to Feed the Hungry) is one of several large food banks in the state of Georgia. This one serves 13 Georgia counties and one Alabama county. Their website explains their mission further: “The mission of Feeding the Valley is to gather food to feed the hungry. The values that we incorporate into our mission are compassion, good stewardship, dedication, urgency and inclusiveness.”
According to Smith, all children who attend receive a hot, balanced meal that includes meat, vegetables, fruit and milk or juice. The food is prepared by SafeServe Certified Staff of Feeding the Valley Inc. Also included throughout the program will be activities appropriate for the children who attend. Parents, grandparents or caretakers are encouraged, of course, to provide transportation when possible. Ellaville is a small town, so many children are within a safe walking distance of the church, a place that is well-known throughout the community.
New Corinth’s pastor, the Rev. Brian D. Ramey, and the congregation are enthusiastic about the program and are urging participation by those in the nearby community. The food is delicious, well-prepared, and nutritious and it is served in a cool, comfortable setting, by folks who love children and want to see them well-fed.
Smith was chatting with young girls who arrived early and who were obviously enjoying themselves.
“Tell people to call and register their children,” she said. Her  numbers are 229-937-2139 or 229-942-1311. She’s waiting to hear. She wants to hear. There is food to go around, enough for all.