On Thanksgiving Day, most families enjoy preparing a holiday feast for their loved ones to come enjoy from all over. Yet, while others are preparing their dinner, many others will be headed to the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank (AAEFD) to stand in line to receive their holiday meal instead.
According to Director Kim Ramos, the lines at the AAEFD will be wrapped around the building long before the volunteers arrive to open up the doors Ramos says that Thanksgiving Day will be one of the busiest days at the shelter during the holiday season.
“We see people from all walks of life,” Ramos said. “There isn’t a group who is spared from having an emergency. We do see people who become regulars, but we also see people who are used to taking care of themselves that are seeking help for the first time.”
The AAEFB has been operating since 1980 and was originally run out of Mayor Nancy Denson’s garage.
“It was news stories about older people buying canned dog food as a protein source that was the impetus for my involvement in starting a food bank in Athens,” Mayor Denson said. “After verifying that this actually was happening, I was hooked.”
According to Ramos, the AAEFB is responsible for feeding 50 families a week on an $80,000 budget.
“It makes our job tough,” Ramos said.
Volunteers at AAEFB are given sheets of paper that describe what to pack for each family based on the size of the family. This makes sure that each family gets the amount of food that they need without having to make another family go without.
“We always work with them to make sure they get what they need. Most of the time, the people we help are always thankful for what we have to give,” Ramos said.
Those items will soon include roasted chicken, ham, and turkey. On Friday, Nov. 13 volunteers received the frozen meets to prepare to hand out for Thanksgiving.
“It gives you a warm-fuzzy feeling being able to help people out during the hard times of their life,” Ramos said. “By doing this, we can make sure that people’s holidays will be a little bit brighter despite what they may be going through.”
When Mayor Denson’s husband Bob passed away, the AAEFB was able to do something that they had not been able to do in years past.
“In the obituary, Mayor Denson asked that in lieu of flowers that people make someone else’s Christmas brighter since Bob had loved Christmas. We had enough donations to help a family of a single working mom with a handicapped child, and had enough money left over to buy them a gas gift card and certificate to a restaurant. I will never forget the looks on their faces when I delivered all of their stuff. It’s something I will never forget.”
Yet, every day is an opportunity for Ramos and the volunteers to make the day of an individual down on their luck.
“When people come to us, they are already having a bad day. They have had to go through the long process at the social worker’s office and have had to do something they never wanted to do- admit they need help,” Ramos said. When they come to us, we always try to make their process with us as easy as possible to take a load off their shoulders.”
When looking back over watching the AAEFB grow, Mayor Denson is simply thankful for all the people that have been helped over the years.
“Athens Area Emergency Food Bank and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, which grew out of the Emergency Food Bank have filled this void for tens of thousands over the nearly four decades they have been in business,” Mayor Denson said.
Ramos is thankful that people are able to find quality food at the food bank to help out her fellow neighbors.
“We always make sure that people have quality food,” Ramos said. “We have a rule that if we wouldn’t want to eat it, then we aren’t going to give it to someone else to eat. “
In the AAEFB, there is a shelf over the top of Ramos’ office door where items have been placed that are not considered appropriate to pass on to another family.
“Some of these items were donated from the early to late 90s,” Ramos said. “One of the times up there was donated from someone from another country. It has eye balls in it.”
For more information on how to volunteer or help out the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank, please go to their website http://aaefb.blogspot.com.
Most of the time, Ramos says that the items they receive from donations can be sent off to families in need.
“No one can ever imagine the amount of joy and thankfulness that are on the faces of the people who receive food from us,” Ramos said. “It changes their lives during the hardest times they’ve every faced.”