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The Voice of the Black Community


Free food provided by Salvation Army
Published Thursday, March 14, 2019
by Cheyenne Beasley, The Durham VOICE

DURHAM – Everyone goes through ups and downs, but Suzanne Clark openly shared that things have been very rough since she became homeless in September. Fortunately, the Salvation Army is helping her.

Clark stood in a line outside the Salvation Army along with about 50 other people with bags and boxes waiting to receive a number for their opportunity to get free food provided to the Salvation Army by the Walmart located at Glenn School Road.

Yvonne Ayala, the case manager for the Salvation Army, picks up various foods such as frozen items, meats, canned goods, cereal and more every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, which is stored and distributed on Fridays from 9 to 11 a.m. or until the food runs out. Cat and dog food is also given out every other Friday along with cat litter if available.

“Instead of this food getting thrown away, we are allowed to give it to the community. There is a lot of suffering going on right now, and people are struggling, so this kind of takes some of the edge off,” said Debbie Avolin, director for social services.

The Salvation Army, at 909 Liberty St., began “Free Food Friday” in Dec. 2017 when Walmart reached out to them to handle donations because the Food Bank could not comply with the times and dates that the food needed to be picked up.

After receiving their numbers, community members wait in a line inside the building until they are called seven at a time to show their ID and lease to Avolin who checks them at a front table. The room is set up with about four tables full of different foods for people to choose. Volunteers specify how many of each item they are allowed to take.

Clark described this program as a “relief.”

“I haven’t had any income for years. I’ve been disabled by breast cancer surgery and some chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and I can’t work. I was made homeless in September, and I get a little bit of government food stamps, but $100 a month doesn’t help me eat, so having access to food throughout the community is important to me,” she said.

Anthony Perry, a volunteer who has been helping every Friday, hopes to have more volunteers join them. This is the hope for many other staff members since that is one of the biggest challenges that they face. Community members and also students are free to contact the Salvation Army and get in touch with volunteer coordinator Katherine Bellamy and offer their services, or just show up on Friday to get credit.

Students are also “more than welcome to come” to get grocery items, Ayala said. They are just required to bring their IDs.

“The best part is just seeing all of the faces light up when they get their donated food and just being able to get to know them through the weeks, “ said volunteer Paul Dargan.

The program started out small with about 20-30 people, and Ayala had a goal of 50. Now, the program helps about 50-80 people and her goal is now 100.

“It’s a big help for people who really ain’t got nothing. It’s a big help,” said Dee Dee, who comes for the food on Fridays.

Added Ayala: “Everybody gets help no matter what…Anybody can come.”



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