ALBANY — The Albany Rescue Mission usually gets a strong response to its annual food drive as it gets closer to the holiday season.
This year, officials at the shelter say, an even bigger response is needed.
The departure of Second Harvest of South Georgia from Albany earlier this year has depleted the supply at the Rescue Mission needed to serve the more than 7,000 meals and 150 food bags it distributes to families each month.
In addition to the three meals a day served to residents, the Rescue Mission serves two community meals a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Mike Gravette, the program director for the Rescue Mission, used the word “desperate” when describing how much of a struggle the organization is under to meet the need.
It has, he says, reached the point of having to suspend some activity.
“These food banks leaving have left a lot of people without,” Gravette said. “There are 7,000-9,000 we feed outside the mission residency. We have tried to keep up with that void, but we are not able to do it.”
The food drive is set for Nov.1-2 at all three Mike’s Country Store locations, with churches such as First Free Will Baptist Church and Gillionville Baptist Church participating.
During those two days, the public is encouraged to bring nonperishable food items, in quantities ranging from small grocery bags to large boxes, to a participating location. From there, the Rescue Mission will collect them.
Gravette, who has been with the Rescue Mission for seven years, said he has not seen a situation like this before.
“Hopefully, the response will be more than the general public,” he said. “We are not asking for specifics. Whatever they send us, we will use it. If it is a Snickers bar, we will use it.
“The people who are actually coming, they are desperate. We didn’t realize it would get that bad. We hate to tell anybody no, especially it we know they need it.”
Gravette said the Rescue Mission is not complaining, but it is struggling to keep up with demand and recognizes it needs help. The demand of men, women and children stays consistent throughout the year, with some seasons busier than others.
The organization does have a loyal support base that it has been able to rely upon.
“We put out a newsletter, and if we tell them of any issues we have, they respond,” Gravette said. “They are great; they respond.”
Gravette said the Rescue Mission is not just a homeless shelter. It serves domestic violence victims and people suffering from job loss or family issues, among others, who may have no other place to turn.
“People’s minds are geared to (homeless shelter), but it is more than that,” he said. “We have never had a bad food drive, ever. We are just hoping for more.
“It is not about the Mission, but about these folks (we are helping).”
Donations to the food drive can also be dropped off at the Rescue Mission, located at 604 N. Monroe St. For further information on where to drop off items or how to help, call the Mission at (229) 435-7615.