God’s Breadbasket helped more than 7,000 people in Hogansville in 2012 and the volunteers who run the food closet say there’s no sign of the need going away.
“There’s definitely more people who need it than don’t need it,” said Willow Heim, a retired minister widely credited with being the backbone of the effort.
Heim is quick to share the praise with fellow volunteers. There are no paid employees at God’s Breadbasket.
“No one person is important,” she said. “It takes the whole town.”
Hogansville has embraced the food closet, giving financial and food donations to keep it going since it opened in June 2009. Heim said she hoped then to help about 50 families. In January 2013, the food closet helped a record 251 families.
“We get some grants, but not very many,” Heim said. “We’re supported through private donations. We have several people who faithfully give about $1,000 a month.”
The food closet was supported by the Hogansville Handmade-Homegrown market when it operated downtown. The Hummingbird Festival made the food closet its official charity one year. In 2011, when Heim was the grand marshal of the Christmas Parade, spectators brought food donations. The Hogansville Ministerial Association, which officially sponsors the food closet, holds a benefit singing on the fifth Sunday of every month to take donations.
Along with food donations, the food closet gets the bulk of its food from Feeding the Valley, an organization in Columbus. The food costs 18 cents a pound and the food closet spends up to $1,500 a month buying food. It also receives USDA shipments and free food from another program, the Midwest Food Bank out of Peoria, Ill.
Although there are options for residents of LaGrange to get food from local charities, many of the clients at God’s Breadbasket can’t get to them. Many walk to the food closet, which is in the county recreation building on Church Street.
“These people need our respect,” Heim said. “A lot of them will roll their food home in a grocery cart, which we allow as long as they bring it right back.”
To qualify for the food closet, residents must have an income below the federal poverty level. For two people, that’s $1,300 a month, for a family of four it’s $2,498.
The food closet also provides snacks for the Boys & Girls Club Hogansville unit, some church youth groups, and “weekend food” for children at Hogansville Elementary who can get meals at the school during the week but are on their own on weekends. They also deliver food to homebound residents.
“People need to come and see what we do,” Heim said, although they may get asked for a donation.
“I don’t ever get tired of begging,” she said. “People can always say no.”
Residents who use the food closet may come there once a month for a food box. The food closet is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Thursday.
“Denominations stop at the door,” Heim said. “We all come together to do God’s work.”
To donate or find out more about the food closet, donations may be sent to P.O. Box 161 Hogansville, Ga. 30230 or contact Heim at 7036-637-4169.