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Friday, October 12, 2007

Milton / Roswell Partnership Fills Charity Shelves

River church, Milton public safety hold food drive

by Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers / www.northfulton.com

Milton’s public safety personnel Capt. Damon Jones, left, Capt. Mark Stephens, firefighter Russ Scanlon, firefighter Ryan James and Lt. Danny Elliott show off some of the food they raised in the drive. Summer can be a rough time in the charity business.

Just ask Karen Rupp, the new volunteer coordinator for North Fulton Community Charities, a Roswell-based organization dedicated to helping out local families. During the warmer months – devoid of such charity favorites like Thanksgiving and Christmas – NFCC's food shelves can be bare.

That leaves the roughly 85 families a day who come to the group for dietary staples out of luck. But thanks to Milton-based The River church and the city's Department of Public Safety, this summer was different.

During the month of August, The River teamed with NFCC to sponsor a food drive. Since the new church doesn't have a permanent home yet – parishioners worship at Mill Springs Academy – it used Milton's fire stations, police precincts and City Hall for collection points.

"We were so depleted this summer, and they helped fill us up," said Rupp. "There's a tremendous need a lot of people are not aware of. This is a very affluent area, and people just don't think there's a need."

Want to set up a food drive?

New volunteer coordinator Karen Rupp said anyone who would like to set up a food drive is welcome to call her. North Fulton Community Charities is a wealth of information on collecting food for the needy and how to maximize the impact of the drive.Call 770-640-0399 X230 or e-mail krupp@nfcchelp.org

Pastor Scott Seeke of The River said that was one of his young congregation's main goals in holding the summer food drive – showing that the need is out there. The pastor had a previous relationship with NFCC from previous congregations and was aware the organization serves 12,000 families a year, so it seemed like a good place to partner up.

"We're the new church in town, and we were looking for something to do," he said. "We went to NFCC ... and they basically said they almost run out of food in the summer."

From there, Seeke said his church started thinking strategically about the best way to have the most impact. When the idea came up of possibly partnering with Milton's new Department of Public Safety to make the drive happen, it all just made sense.

"It's a new city, with these new fire stations, so we figured people would be curious," he said. "They had the facilities and the resources to be a collection point."

All it took was one e-mail to Interim City Manager Chris Lagerbloom, also former head of the Public Safety Department."He said, 'It sounds great,'" said Seeke. "Within 30 minutes we had it hammered out."

The River had no idea the response the food drive could garner.

"This was a unique partnership that worked out really, really well," said Seeke. "Once the businesses heard about [the drive], they started taking food to City Hall – it really started to get bigger."

Lt. Danny Elliott of the Milton Department of Public Safety said whenever police or firefighters would go to grocery stores, they would tell the managers. He said this word of mouth also helped out, but the lion's share of any credit goes to The River and NFCC.

"The need was identified and the Milton Department of Public Safety wanted to help," he said. "Helping is what we do best."

Rupp said NFCC needs all the help it can get. Though the 85 families a day the charity feeds can only get food once a week, that's still a lot of mouths.

"[The River and Milton] came just at a time when we needed it," she said. "But we give it out as fast as we can get it."

So how much did they raise?

Pastor Scott Seeke said in one month The River church and Milton's Department of Public Safety were able to raise about 200 cubic feet of various food items from four collection points.

"That's a lot of stuff," he said.

Seeke said he knew the basic dimensions of the collection because of how the church stored and shipped the goods. Next year, he said they might try and weigh it.

"I guess we'll just put everything on a big scale when we get it," he said.

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