OKOLONA • Volunteers got up bright and early to serve food boxes to hundreds of needy families throughout Chickasaw County.

On Saturday, the volunteer staff of Mission Okolona hosted their food drive, held the third Saturday of every month from 7:30 a.m. to approximately 9 a.m. A line of cars started forming even before 7 a.m., and a few boxes were also set aside to be delivered directly to a few clients.

Project manager Oliver Johnson said they were expecting to see a bigger turnout as they gave away canned goods, dry food, cereal, butter, peanut butter, flour, canned meat, hens, chicken, and sweet potatoes to families in need. The group was seeing an increase in need for the past couple of months since COVID-19 started, Johnson said.

“A lot of the larger food banks, they shutdown due to the pandemic. We remained open, so our numbers increased,” Johnson said.

The organization served 250 families before, but now serves around 350, including emergency boxes they provide throughout the month. For the Mission Okolona team, remaining open during the pandemic and serving was about helping the people in the community who need the food pantry.

“There’s a need for it, and as long as I can do it, I’m going to do it to make sure these folks get fed, ‘cause it’s important, especially right now,” said Karen Jones, executive director of Mission Okolona.

Since September, the organization has also supported Okolona Elementary School by providing 260 students food bags every Friday. It will be an annual program.

“Due to rapid unemployment and the fact that early on in the pandemic, students were at home (so) families had to prepare more food, we opened up the pantry to all parents in the school district in addition to our regular clients,” Johnson said.

Mission Okolona has been a community-based nonprofit for years, receiving support from local churches and individuals, United Way of Northeast Mississippi, the CREATE Foundation and other funders. The organization is always in need of financial support from corporations and private individuals.

“The need is great, and we’re doing the best we can with what we have, but we can always use support,” Johnson said.

More information can be found by visiting https://www.missionokolona.com

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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