Helping hands need help, too

Published 11:54 am Saturday, March 2, 2013


NEWSOMS—The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia’s Mobile Pantry helps Olivia Johnson get through the month.

“I am in need,” said the 46-year-old Franklin resident. “I don’t receive the food stamps that I need to get by on for an entire month.”

The Foodbank serves a 4,745-square-mile area that includes Suffolk and Franklin, and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties.

Johnson, who has been on disability for more than five years, also volunteers for the food bank once a month.

“I grew up with my mom teaching me to help those less fortunate, right on down to the homeless,” she said. “I love to help those that don’t have what they need.”

Johnson was one of 27 volunteers who distributed 5,883 pounds of food to 175 families on Tuesday in Newsoms.

“We do these handouts once a month at a different place each month,” said Jean Stephenson, liaison for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. “We usually have a line waiting even before we are scheduled to start.”

Stephenson, a human services assistant with Southampton County Department of Social Services, noted what is different about the Newsoms pantry is that it is based on need and not income.

“We know that there are people out there that work hard and have an income, but it’s just not enough to get them through the month,” she said.

The distribution event had what seemed a longer-than-normal line because it was too muddy to park at the Methodist Church — the normal location.

As a result, vehicles were lined along Main Street.

“I know a lot of people called saying they had never seen a line like the one we had today,” Stephenson said.

“We had no choice but to have them park on the street. We did not want to mess up the church grounds. Once word of mouth got around of where we were, that is when we saw our longest line.”

In 2012 the Foodbank along with Southampton Social Services distributed over 75,000 pounds of food to 6,000 residents in Southampton County.