It may have been over two decades ago, but this isn’t Mary Jane Crouch’s first rodeo. Not even close. As executive director of America's Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, she's pretty much seen it all before.
“I was actually brought on board in 2001 to raise money to buy this building,” she said.
The building she’s referring to is the current home of America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia and Kids Café on President Street in Savannah. It will only be their home for roughly the next 60 days.
You see, America’s Second Harvest and their entire operation is movin’ on up to a brand spankin’ new facility on Chatham Parkway. It’s a project that has been in the works for roughly three years. The new building will be double the size of their current operation.
“We’re excited,” she said. “Our storage space will be double. Our kitchen will be double the size, and our volunteer center will be double the size.”
The need has been there for quite some time. Most of the community has no idea just how much food goes through America’s Second Harvest’s doors. They are currently providing 4,200 meals PER DAY out of their Kids Café. When you figure in the formulas that government agencies provide to determine how much food they hand out, Mary Jane said they distribute roughly 19 million meals per year to 21 counties across Coastal Georgia.
The meals go to places like after school programs, the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and the Salvation Army branches. They also provide food to shelters, pantries and Senior Citizen Brown Bag programs. Their reach is massive. The pure volume is not only the proof, but also an indicator of the daily needs in this area.
That’s one reason why Mary Jane says there was a little bit of hand wringing when it came time to find a location for their new home.
“People were telling us we need to look at Bryan County and places like that. But most of the people we serve are here in Chatham County,” she said. “Not to mention asking our employees to drive that far out to a new food bank. We couldn’t do that.”
She shared Atlanta’s food bank lost a double-digit percentage of their staff when they moved from center Atlanta to a space near the airport. She wasn’t going to take that risk.
“We needed to be near the interstate and away from flood zones. That was the hardest part of this process, finding the right location.”
The good news is the move, and the new facility are practically paid for. She says they are within striking distance of covering all their costs. Their current location has an offer for purchase. That is sitting in escrow until they are ready to move into their new building.
It may look like it from here, but I’m sure Mary Jane would laugh at me saying this has all been ‘easy.’ What they do is never ‘easy.’ It is the result of lots of hard work and dedication from both employees and volunteers. It would be impossible to do it without them.
Believe it or not, the cupboards are already full. Here we are at the holiday season, and they are at capacity on food with no real need for anything. That may be the first time I’ve ever heard that from a food bank, but it is certainly wonderful news.
They do, however, have an ask. “We usually get a grant to allow us to buy turkeys every year.” Mary Jane said, “We didn’t get it this year. So, we had to spend about $45,000 buying turkeys in time for Thanksgiving.”
That is money they are actively trying to recoup from the community today. A $10 donation would go a very long way in that regard. You can find a link on their homepage— helpendhunger.org.
Every little bit helps, of course. But Mary Jane doesn’t seem too worried about it. “We have a good base of donors. They realize what our needs are every month.”
Including during the holidays.