By Kim West
The 19th annual WAFF 48 Holiday Can-a-thon will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at Lowe’s in Athens on U.S. 72.
According to WAFF, the canned food drive has collected more than 3 million items since 1992. Homemade canned food will not be accepted, and items should not be damaged or leaking.
In Limestone County, the Can-a-thon collected more than 18,000 items for the Athens-Limestone Food and Shelter in 2011. The shelter has provided food, rent and utilities assistance to more than 2,400 local families this year, according to ALFS Director Laura Aldridge.
“It is a very big boost for the shelter,” said Aldridge, who has served as director for the past three years. “Until the past three or four years, the food from the Can-a-thon would basically hold us until the postal workers had their food drive in May, and the food from that drive would hold us until the next Can-a-thon.
“But these past few years, our numbers have grown so much. As of Nov. 1, we’re 400 families over where we were at that time last year. Our numbers keep going up, and our client base is growing.”
After an application for assistance has been approved, a family can seek food assistance three times per calendar year. Aldridge said federal poverty guidelines are used to assess eligibility.
“We give them approximately two-and-a-half to three weeks of food, including canned food, frozen food, frozen meats, produce and bakery items,” Aldridge said. “Pizza Hut donates pizza, and Nestle Toll House and Starbucks donates cakes.
“We are truly blessed to be getting these donations to feed the county’s people in need.”
Aldridge said a family is also eligible for rent and utilities assistance once annually. Fifty dollars can go toward a utility bill and $100 for rent.
“We can help with rent and utility assistance once a year with limited funding,” she said. “We can only assist with rent if there’s a late notice or eviction note from a landlord or mortgage company, and utilities have to be on. The purpose of this assistance is to help keep utilities on and keep people in their homes.”
ALFS, which was awarded the Unsung Hero Award by the Limestone NAACP in early November, is an all-volunteer, nonprofit agency that relies on donations from individuals, businesses, schools and churches and money raised through grant writing.
The shelter has been awarded grant money by Walmart, Steelcase, Boeing and the Limestone Community Foundation. Money is also donated by workers at federal agencies such as Redstone Arsenal and Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant through the Combined Federal Campaign, which uses payroll deductions.
Aldridge has 10 to 12 regular volunteers, and about 100 total on the agency roster.
“It was a nice surprise and wonderful boost for our volunteers,” Aldridge said. “My volunteers work very hard, and this award helps validate what they’re doing and I greatly appreciate all the help we get.
“I’d like to thank Limestone County residents in advance for their continued support, because without them we couldn’t do what we do.”
Athens-Limestone Food and Shelter is located at 20086 Swanner Blvd. above the Dollar General in Tanner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and 1 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. For more information, contact Aldridge at 256-230-6311.