by Howard Ballou
The dictionary defines the word glean this way: to gather what is left by reapers. There is an organization in Jackson called The Gleaners and they've been making a difference in the capitol city for 22-years.
"We're a total volunteer organization and we rescue food..", says Nancy Willis. Like your mother used to say, wasting good food is a sin. Nancy Willis has been rescuing food in and around Jackson for 17 years. She is the director of The Gleaners, Inc. And why does she do it? Said Willis, "...because all this food; over a million pounds was thrown away last year. Why? You know, there are people that could use the food. Look around. All the Cokes, cookies; the produce; the food from Baptist, the food from St. Dominics we pick up is normally thrown away. There are people that are hungry...people that need the food. Why shouldn't we do that? On any given day, 359 North Mart Plaza, the charity's headquarters, is buzzing with activity. I think we have 65 shelters we give to. Everyday we change the names on our baskets and we give away 10 to 13 shelters everyday."
There is no paid staff, just dedicated volunteers and generous donors. Willis said, "Gloria Martinson started Gleaners and started it in her kitchen with just a few donuts and it has grown until now we have a lot of stores but Kroger 55 was one of our first stores and it's been there all these years."
In the first nine months of 2006, Gleaners volunteers salvaged about 1.5 million dollars worth of food that would have, otherwise, ended up in the garbage. Instead, hundreds of low-income citizens in the Jackson Metropolitan Area got healthy meals. Said Willis, "It's a wonderful organization. Volunteers do the work and we want to do it. That's the beauty of the whole thing. God puts us where we need to be. We want to be here. We like what we're doing."
And what Gleaners has been doing in Jackson for 22-years now, is making a difference.
The Gleaners also collect pet food for distribution to local animal shelters. If you'd like to get involved with The Gleaners, give them a call at 601-981-4240.