Published Sunday, November 25, 2012

Can-A-Thon finale Tuesday; food, funds support pantry

By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL

sarah@newnan.com

It’s almost time for the grand finale of the annual Coweta Can-A-Thon.

Donors can bring non-perishable food, cash, and checks to either of the two public drop-offs: North Court Square in Newnan and downtown Senoia on Main Street.

Drop-off points will be manned from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Volunteers will unload vehicles so donors won’t have to get out of their cars.

Checks can be made out to the Newnan Junior Service League, which has organized the effort for almost three decades.

The Can-A-Thon is the lifeblood of the Coweta Community Food Pantry, which provides emergency food stores to needy Cowetans year-round.

This year’s goal is 300,000 in food items and cash equivalents. Monetary donations are calculated at three for a dollar.

“I hope this year will be better than ever, because we need it to be,” said Derenda Rowe, food pantry executive director.

The Can-A-Thon and the food pantry’s services have taken on a whole new meaning in these years of economic decline.

Rowe said she is very excited about this year’s Can-A-Thon. The event is run by the Newnan Junior Service League, and Rowe said this year’s committee has come up with some new ideas and increased the participation from businesses.

“They’ve really worked with bringing on businesses and other people,” Rowe said.

The SummerGrove, White Oak, and Canongate golf courses were new drop-off points throughout November, and several other businesses have gotten more involved with food collections as well, Rowe said.

“We have to get everybody involved — churches, schools, businesses,” and individuals, Rowe said.

Coweta’s two largest private schools, The Heritage School and Trinity Christian School, have started a new tradition — a competition to see which can contribute the most food.

“I think it is a great thing that they would have a challenge,” Rowe said.

Students recently came out to the food pantry to take photographs, and there will be a trophy that rotates between the two schools.

“I thought that was kind of neat,” Rowe said, adding she’s been intrigued by some of the other ideas students have had to raise money, including dances and “powder puff” football games.

Canned fruits and meats are particularly needed for the pantry, because those items are “the things we’ve had the hardest time this year keeping,” Rowe said.

“Any kind of canned fruit or canned meat items would just be a really good thing,” she said.

Peanut butter also is in high demand.

“We like for the children to have some protein,” Rowe said.

And just because it’s a “can” event doesn’t mean all food has to be in cans. Any non-perishable food is accepted, including tea bags and all manner of boxed and bagged foods.

“We’ve tried to step up what we do as far as the quality of what we give out, so we try to make sure they have breakfast foods,” Rowe said. “So cereal and grits and oatmeal is a good thing.”

Monetary donations are useful because they allow Rowe and other food pantry staffers to purchase any items that are in short supply — and that’s especially important as supplies from the Can-A-Thon start to run out in the spring.

Since 2008, when the recession started, the need has increased each year. Every year, the pantry is serving about 5,000 additional people., according to Rowe.

But this year, it looks like things may have finally plateaued. Last year, the pantry served 20,047 people.

“Probably by the end of this month, we will be close to 18,000, and so another month would put us pretty close to 20,000,” Rowe said.

The need may have stopped increasing, but it’s certainly not decreasing.

Rowe isn’t sure what to attribute the leveling off to.

“Is it just that we have now served that large percentage of the population that needs us, or is the economy better?” she said. “I just have a lot of questions in my mind about what is going on,” she said.

“We are still seeing families that are from all walks of life. And we are still seeing people that say — ‘well, I just got laid off,’” Rowe said.

One woman who came to the food pantry just last week said she got laid off three weeks ago and her husband got laid off last week, Rowe said.

The Coweta Community Food Pantry is located at 320C Temple Avenue, Newnan, in the same building as One Roof Outreach. Food distributions are held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

For more information call 770-683-7705 or e-mail one-roof@hotmail.com .

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