The median household income in Oconee County in 2010 was $70,532, according to the Oconee County Economic Development Department.
The lower-end outliers to that statistic should not be forgotten, said Reiny Hiss, a board member and volunteer leader for Area Church Together Serving, an Oconee County food bank organized by 30 local churches.
Hiss smirked at the lit up eyes of a reporter awed by what appears to be limitless canned goods, plentiful fresh foods and clothes for all shapes and sizes.
“They say isn’t that wonderful, we’re set for the month,” Hiss replied. “But everything that comes in goes out.”
Hiss is neither cynical nor pessimistic about the service he and dozens of others provide.
After all, the pantry served a total of 614 families last year.
Rather, he’s practical and fervently devoted, and so is the Oconee County community.
Around the holidays, schools in Oconee participate in an annual can-a-thon, collecting thousands upon thousands of items. Malcom Bridge Middle School alone is setting a goal of 6,750 canned goods.
At Oconee County and North Oconee high schools, students a little too old to trick or treat asked for cans in lieu of candy. They raised about $7,000, Hiss said.
In 2011, the school system collected 31,500 items. In total, 115,000 food items were dispersed from the ACTS Distribution Center, now located at 130 East Thompson St. in Bogart.
Inside the corridors of the building, volunteers stock shelves and bag groceries hurriedly and without pause, as if it were a timed contest. It’s not that they want to finish their work and get home; they’ve already stayed extra hours to feed late arrivals. No, it’s the consistent ebb and flow of the civic need that demands their attention and physical labor.
“Someone will bring 100 cans by and it’s gone within minutes,” said Joe VanHoose.
“It’s amazing that there’s this much need in our community,” added Oconee native Ashley Harp.
VanHoose and Harp spent the afternoon stocking groceries that were more than just canned goods.
You’ll find all the food groups in those bags, Hiss said. “They put enough in them that I can barely hold them up.
“The people getting them are going to get a really good selection of food, and that’s the intent.”
PR Firm Jackson-Spalding even closed its office for the day to volunteer.
“Volunteering for important causes is what makes our community work,” said Brian Brodrick, Jackson Spalding partner. “Without people giving their time and their treasures and talents, we wouldn’t be here.”
The ACTS distribution center is open on Tuesday and Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
For donation information, Hiss can be reached at (706) 559-4559.