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Rappahannock Civic Club continues to feed hungry of Middlesex County

“The only agenda they (Civic Club)have is to serve others, and they pretty much do it all on their own.”
—Kenneth W. Williams

The Christmas spirit of giving is year round for organizers and volunteers of the Rappahannock Civic Club’s weekly food bank.

The organization distributes free food to Middlesex County residents in need on the first and third Monday of each month at the group’s building on Route 33 near Harmony Village. 

On the second and fourth Monday, the food bank provides boxes of food for shut-ins. The Civic Club works in conjunction with the Northern Neck-Middle Peninsula Community Services Board, Hands Across Middlesex, and Middlesex County Social Services on the shut-in food program.

“We have volunteers here working every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said Barbara Thomas, a longtime volunteer and Civic Club member. “We are either bringing food in, giving it out, or preparing to give it out.”

The Civic Club gets all of its food from the Middlesex and Gloucester Food Lion stores. Food Lion participates in a national program titled “Second Harvest,” which provides food to food banks.

The company donates food with a shelf life that is about ready to expire. For participating, Food Lion can deduct so much per ton from their taxes, said Thomas.

Food Lion provides frozen meat, produce, bread and desserts, and the civic group picks up the food with a truck. “Unfortunately, a lot of the produce we have to dispose of because we don’t have a walk-in cooler to keep it fresh,” said Thomas.

“There is a great need out there and we can only do so much,” she said. “People often come to us wanting canned goods, but we can’t afford to buy canned goods.

“We are also helping many people who have a need, but don’t qualify for help from social services or other agencies,” said Thomas. “Anyone from Middlesex County is eligible for food at our food bank. People lose their jobs and other things happen that make them have a need.”

The Rappahannock Civic Club’s food bank has been in existence for about 30 years. Thomas attributes its success to determined volunteers who see the food bank as an important part of the community. “No one is paid to be here,” she said. “They are all here because they want to be here.”

What’s helped to keep the Civic Club building, food bank and other programs going are funds generated by club bingo games, said Thomas. “We raise all our money from bingo and from a few donations.”

Bingo is played at the club every Wednesday with the doors opening at 5:30 p.m., and early-bird play beginning at 6:45 p.m.

The group is struggling with membership. “Our charge is to boost the community,” she said.  “We now have less than 20 working members and it’s hard to get new members.”

Thomas praised David Harmon, superintendent of the Middle Peninsula Regional Security Center in Saluda, for providing help to the club. “Many of us are old now and can’t do the hard jobs it takes to keep the building and grounds up,” she said. “Mr. Harmon sends work-release inmates to help clean the building and other jobs. They are our arms and legs for things we can’t handle. God bless them for their help!

“All we are here at the food bank is a helping hand,” said Thomas.  “We can’t provide enough food to feed a family every meal, but there are not a lot of helping hands out there anymore—not true helping hands.

“We had a person drive up in a Jaguar and get food. We don’t question the need. If you are a Middlesex County resident and feel you have a need, we are here for you,” said Thomas.

“Every one of us who works here has experienced a need in our lives,” she said. “We are not wealthy people. We are here because we care and we feel this is important.

“Look across this country. The economy is bad and the well is dry. Federal, state and local governments are going to be scratching for money and everyone is going to be impacted—especially the poor and low income,” she said.

“We’ve got to help one another. We are family and Middlesex is our family. God willing we will have food for those who need it!”

Thomas thanked the Zoar Baptist Church Love Class, which gives $20 a month to the organization. “They adopted us and it has really helped,” she said.

She also praised John Croxton, who is in charge of the food bank program. “John tells us that everyone needs to be loved. Everybody needs to be appreciated. It’s our philosophy.”

“They are doing an excellent job and spend a lot of time working on the food bank,” said Middlesex County Supervisor Fred Crittenden. “I’ve been by there on food days and seen 25 or more vehicles there.

“I’m sure there’s going to be even more of a demand with the economy the way it is. You’ve got to admire a group that has worked so hard and devoted that much time to it. They’ve been doing it an awful long time and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the program,” said Crittenden.

Middlesex Board of Supervisors Chairman Kenneth W. Williams agreed with Crittenden. “They (Civic Club volunteers) are out there really on top of it, and sometimes I feel they are overlooked for all they do.

“They do it year-round too. It’s not just at Christmas time,” stressed Williams.  “People don’t realize how much those people do. The only agenda they have is to serve others and they pretty much do it all on their own.”

posted 12.18.2008

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