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Giving the gift of food

Editor’s note: This is a series of stories about the agencies supported by the Dallas County-Selma United Way. The United Way fund drive is under way and will conclude Dec. 31.

Giving food away doesn’t sound like quite as much fun as the alternative — eating it.

Of course, 3,900 pounds of grub would be a bit hard to stomach.

That’s roughly the average amount of edible goods the Selma Area Food Bank doles out to its agencies each day.

“We have a lot of fun,” Executive Director J.D. Parks said with a big grin on his face. “Someone knows they could go to (the grocery store) and buy ground beef for $2.99 a pound. They can come here and get it for 19 cents a pound. How can you not love that?”

The food bank, however, is not a wholesale basement bargain store. It sells food to agencies that must be 501 (c) (3) non-profit organizations or churches. Those agencies then give the food or any other non-perishable household items out to impoverished families.

The Selma Area Food Bank moves about 117,500 pounds of goods per month out of its warehouse on 497 Oak St. It currently has a walk-in freezer filled to the brim with food, keeps a steady supply of water and has volunteers that help out with various projects.

And the United Way has proven a strong partner from the very start, said Cissy Chaffin, resource manager, who handles bookkeeping, grant research and grant writing.

“In October of 1993, the United Way was the main force behind starting the food bank,” said Chaffin, who has worked there since 1995. “They have been real helpful. It’s been a real good relationship.”

The United Way donates $10,000 per year to the food bank, Parks said, which mainly goes toward operating costs. The United Way gets its money from various donors — through individuals at work and through corporations.

But the United Way needs more, said Jeff Cothran, director of the organization.

The United Way campaign is under way toward its goal of $390,000. The drive ends Dec. 31.

“I, for one, have seen a 100 percent increase in calls for help at my office,” Cothran said. “Right now we are at 60 percent of our goal of $390,000. At the current level of giving, if we get what was pledged last year, we will be at a little more than 10 percent short of our goal.”

Three warehouse employees round out a staff of five that work at the food bank Monday through Thursday to help poor people in a four-county region fed. The food bank covers Dallas, Perry, Wilcox and Marengo counties.

Although every little bit helps, Parks said he is glad to see organizations that cater to people who are always in need.

“We’re here, all the time.”