Audrey Easterling has anxiously been eyeing the door at the Salvation Army food pantry in Brunswick. The case manager at the charity organization has been running low on food since Hurricane Irma lashed the Golden Isles with its tropical-storm force winds and intense storm surge.
As more people come seeking assistance, Easterling becomes more worried about the possibility of having to turn people away.
“We really don’t have much ... just some canned goods. It’s upsetting because you want to help the people who come here,” she said “It is very hard on our all of us ... we aren’t used to not being able to help. I have just been telling them what we have and a lot of them say they will just check back.”
Since that time, many have come seeking aid. So many, in fact, that the organization is nearly depleted of all of its nonperishable food items.
“Ever since the storm, we have been seeing so many people ... and people we have never seen before,” she said. “They come for food and clothing. There are some who come to get help with paying their bills because they have been out of work due to the evacuation.”
Many who left town under the mandatory order were faced with lost wages plus travel expenses. That, Easterling said, has put a heavy burden on many families.
“You got people who had to evacuate and didn’t get paid for the days they were out of work. Some took their bill money ... their power money to evacuate because they wanted to take their children away,” she said.
While the organization is always grateful for monetary donations, food is proving to be the greatest immediate need.
“Right now, I really don’t have anything really but some canned goods,” she said.
But those are hardly a well rounded meal for families. Easterling is struggling to make ends meet with a simple mix of corn and peas.
“I just don’t have anything to go along with the vegetables. We need canned meat like Vienna sausages, ravioli, cereal, dry milk, peanut butter and jelly,” she said.
“We need boxed items like hamburger helper. Just all of these things to make bags for families to come take home.”
And there are many, many more families than Easterling is used to serving. In the wake of the storm, the number of those seeking help has more than doubled, she said.
“On a regular Monday, we might see about 20 people. This past Monday we saw 50 people. Tuesday was about the same,” she said. “I thank God that I had a volunteer helping me.”
Most of those faces, she added, were ones she did not recognize.
“These are people that we have never seen before, but someone told them to go to the Salvation Army and we’d help. So they have been coming in,” she said.
Easterling hopes that, in the coming days, donations will come in that will help her help others. She is asking that nonperishable food be delivered to their downtown location.
“All you have to do is bring it to 1624 Reynolds Street between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday,” she said.
Like the Salvation Army, America’s Second Harvest is also in need of food and donations. In fact, Salvation Army also obtains food from the large pantry, a branch of which is located in Brunswick.
Kalista Morton, community support coordinator at America’s Second Harvest says they are also welcoming all donations. Those may be made online at www.helpendhunger.org or mailed to 134 Indigo Drive, Brunswick, GA 31525.
“So many folks lost everything food wise due to loss of power. Canned goods are always appreciated peanut butter and canned meats,” Morton said. “Also, because we are part of Feeding America, we can provide food through monetary donations. For just $1 we can provide five meals to someone in need in our commune and the need is tremendous.”