In the small room where a lot of the food distributed by the Good Neighbor Center is packed up, center director Sam Burkes and the volunteers take a moment.

It hasn’t been long since the food pantry reopened at 71 Woodall Rd. in Cedartown, but the people who have dedicated themselves to seeing it return as a beacon of hope for those in need see good things ahead.

It’s just a few minutes before 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, and there is already a car outside waiting to check in and receive a box filled with nearly 40 pounds of free canned goods, cereal, rice and other necessities.

With the first box on a scale used to make sure everyone gets an equal amount of food, the operation is ready to get started for the day and volunteer Malinda Boozer is doing a last-minute check.

“It’s not as busy as it was before we shut down, but we’re coming up,” Boozer said.

The pantry is part of the ministry of Cedartown Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is located right next door, but the volunteers come from different religious backgrounds and everyone — Polk County residents or not — is eligible to get food.

The center is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, those in need are asked to stay in their vehicles and a box is loaded into it for them once they have checked in with a photo ID. The pantry is affiliated with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and also gets donations from the Kroger and Walmart in Cedartown.

“They make sure we get some good quality food,” Burkes said of the local grocery stores. “Things are building up. We have a lot of things in the works.”

The pantry closed in February, just before the country was gripped in the healthcare crisis of COVID-19, when its previous director stepped down. After a search for a new director and working to develop a plan that would keep in mind the health of the volunteers and the people who come to the pantry, the center reopened on July 15.

Anywhere from 100-200 families a week would get food from the center before it closed. They provided food to 23 families on a recent Thursday, which equaled 67 people in total.

As boxes are completed and the order comes in from the curbside check-in desk, volunteer Ken Ashton brings the boxes out and puts them in a trunk or truck bed.

“We just have a lot of fun,” Burkes said, standing in the center’s larger storage room, which contains freezers and refrigerators for meat and baked goods.

To volunteer and for more information, call 678-901-9184.

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