"Our pantry always runs low in the summertime," said Jane Nations, director of social services for the local Salvation Army. "So the Christmas in July food drive that the United Way does and the food that they give us is very important to us in the summertime. We see our numbers go up. I know I say that every year, but it still is continuing. We see our numbers go up in the summertime with kids out of school. There's still so many people that are unemployed in Bartow County and now [they are struggling financially] with the kids being at home rather than in school because in school they can get their breakfast and their lunch [for free or a reduced price]. ... Right now [our pantry is] probably about 80 percent full.
"We just finished receiving the food from the post office canned food drive. We got [the donations] in May and it was wonderful. Once again the community is just so generous with what they do during that time. We do expect that to last us for a couple of months, which would then of course take us into July. So we're expecting by July the pantry ... if we were just dependent on the donations as we are right now, it would probably be about 25 percent full [then]. So we would definitely be looking at ways to restock it. So the Christmas in July comes at the perfect time for us."
Organized by the United Way of Bartow County in partnership with the Georgia Department of Labor's Employer Committee and Bartow Collaborative Family Connection, the food collection also helps replenish the dwindling pantry shelves of two other United Way agencies: North Bartow Community Services and New Beginnings Food Outreach.
"The nonprofits, they're going week to week [with their] food pantries because they are barely raising enough money to go buy food, stock it, then support people," said Brenda Morehouse, president of the United Way of Bartow County. "Then they run out again, so they run dry. It just seems to me I think that a lot of people this year are still trying to get back on their feet. The economy is just not giving them the kind of relief that it needs to for them to purchase the extra food. So it's really a huge need right now, and they're just seeing a lot more clients that need food."
From July 1 to 29, the Christmas in July campaign is requesting people donate various nonperishable items, including canned meat, peanut butter, tuna, macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal, baby food and baby formula.
Along with food, the campaign also is collecting school supplies. Area residents are encouraged to donate items at participating collection sites, including the United Way of Bartow County, WBHF radio and Hamilton State Bank. To obtain donation boxes, organizations need to call the United Way at 770-386-1677.
Some of the needed school materials include loose leaf notebook paper -- wide and college ruled -- crayons, No. 2 pencils, black and blue ink pens, and glue sticks.
The donated school supplies will be distributed during the Bartow Give a Kid a Chance event on July 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In order to receive the free items, such as school supplies, jeans and T-shirts, and services -- haircuts, and dental, vision and hearing screenings -- parents will need to register their children July 9 from 9 a.m. to noon. The three registration locations also will serve as the distribution sites. They include Cartersville Civic Center, Adairsville High School and Woodland High School.
"There are a lot of various efforts that go on in the county, helping kids back to school" said Bartow Collaborative Family Connection Director Linda Walker, whose organization helped spearhead the inaugural effort last year. "So this was an idea that if we can pull as many of these together as we can, then together we're stronger and can do more.
"So that was the philosophy behind it. There's still those others and that's great because it's a big county and the need unfortunately is huge. But that was the purpose, and so there are about 10 churches who are now involved as well as other organizations. ... It's basically to help less fortunate kids begin school on a more equal footing and be prepared hopefully for a successful school year."
For more information about Christmas in July, contact the United Way at 770-386-1677.