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Day of Caring tradition thrives
Volunteers pack meals for hungry
Publix employees, from left, Scott Barnes, Arika Lane and Carolyn Gladde package meals Friday as part of the United Way of Forsyth County’s Annual Day of Caring. - photo by Crystal Ledford

More than 300 people donned gauzy hair nets, plastic gloves and papery aprons Friday morning at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center.

Luckily, all of them were more focused on the task at hand than looking fashionable.

The outfits were necessary since they were working together to portion, package, seal and box up some 50,000 nonperishable meals for those in need.

The  large-scale event was the main focus of United Way of Forsyth County’s Annual Day of Caring, in which teams from businesses, churches, civic clubs, schools and other groups spend their Friday morning doing something for others.

About 40 teams signed up to help in this year’s Day of Caring.  

Typically, all of the volunteers fan out across the county to various nonprofits to work on different projects. About 200 of Friday’s volunteers did just that, going to several agencies such as The Place of Forsyth County, Literacy Forsyth and United Way’s new office on Elm Street.  

But United Way leaders wanted to try something a little different this year, too. That’s where the meal packaging, which was dubbed United Way Food Friday, came into play.

The project was led by Bryan Coffey, with Outreach Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Iowa that provides dried foods for packaging events such as Friday’s.

“We only have a staff of 20 people and we travel all over the country, wherever people want to work with us to package meals,” Coffey said.

During the local event, volunteers packaged 50,000 meals, about 46,000 of which were distributed to local food programs such as those at The Place, Hightower Baptist Association, the MSG Foundation, and Meals by Grace.

Several church food pantries, including those at Cumming First United Methodist, First Christian and St. Brendan’s, also received some. The remaining 4,000 were slated for shipment to Africa.

“We had a couple of sponsors who wanted their meals to go international, so that’s where they will be going,” said Ruth Goode, executive director of United Way.

According to Goode, since she and her staff wanted to try something a little different for this year’s Day of Caring, the Outreach Inc. meal program seemed like the perfect fit.

Marilyn Cook, who was on a team of volunteers from First Christian Church, said providing meals is a cause with which she’s familiar.

“We work with our church in our local food pantry, so I’m very interested in helping to feed people,” she said.

Brad Collins, on AT&T’s team, spent the morning at the United Way office, helping clean the exterior of the building in preparation for an open house in October.

“It’s a great time to be able to spend the day giving back to the community and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.