Grateful for the items that will be donated through the drive, Harvest House Director Jack Howell said that, because of the community's continued support, the food pantry has been able to meet the growing needs of area residents.
"It's a constant thing, constantly needing food," he said. "We are feeding 200 more families a month than we were feeding last year. The last two weeks, each Thursday we have had an average of 40 new families -- that's their first time. We've never had that many new ones before. It's basically the economy and people losing jobs, just falling on hard times at no fault of their own.
"I'm really excited about [the Thanksgiving Can-A-Thon] because when we get [donations] like that, the money we have budgeted we can use for other things. Instead of having to buy $1,000 worth of food, we can put that toward improving our facilities and making things more comfortable for the people that come."
Originally located in a classroom in the late 1980s, Harvest House has expanded to now fill up a farmhouse on the church's property on Liberty Square Drive.
Each month, Harvest House has devotions and prayer time with, and disperses food to, about 2,100 financially struggling individuals who meet federal guidelines. Open on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon, the pantry tries to supply each family with about 35 pounds of food, ranging from dried goods to fresh desserts donated from grocery stores.
Still spearheaded by Fritz Dent, airport operations manager for Phoenix Air Group Inc., the Thanksgiving Can-A-Thon evolved from the Cartersville-based air carrier's Community Food Drive in 2009 and 2010. Like past years, the drive is supported by Bartow's business community, many of which are serving as drop-off locations.
Launched on Monday, the Thanksgiving Can-A-Thon is encouraging area residents to donate non-perishable food items at various Cartersville locations, including Phoenix Air, 100 Phoenix Air Drive; The Daily Tribune News, 251 S. Tennessee St.; WBHF radio, 7 N. Wall St.; Walmart, 101 Market Place Blvd.; McStatts' Printing, 220 E. Church St.; H&H Realty, 700 Douthit Ferry Road Suite 700; and Cartersville Ace Hardware, 924 West Ave.
"Even though Phoenix Air is hosting it, I wanted it to not be a Phoenix Air event," Dent said, adding last year's drive collected 24,000 pounds of food. "I wanted it to focus more on the needs of the community for Thanksgiving. So that's why I changed the name to the Thanksgiving Can-A-Thon because there's such a need in our county for food donations at this time. I didn't want it to focus on any one company, any one agency.
"I want it to be open and to focus on Thanksgiving and the needs in our community. ... I just think that the need is greater this year than ever. The food pantries are either ... running low or been completely cleaned out. Thanksgiving is coming up and I'm really trying to put an emphasis on collecting food so we can help the needy families in Bartow County. So that each family will have a nice Thanksgiving dinner."
While the Thanksgiving Can-A-Thon currently is under way, Dent said he still is seeking businesses to participate by featuring collection boxes at their offices through Nov. 15 at noon. All the food will be delivered to the Cartersville Airport later that day, where a public offering will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. To be broadcast live by WBHF's Joe Tilley show, the Nov. 15 event will be a time for the public to drop off canned goods, partake in a complimentary cookout courtesy of Walmart and view various aircraft on display. Dent said the offering also will have a strong presence from the Bartow Business Connection and the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about the food drive, call Dent at 770-386-3040.