Another mobile food pantry took place in Aiken on Thursday, this time at the headquarters for Aiken Public Safety on Beaufort Street.
The line for the emergency food supplies was formed well before the event officially began at 9 a.m. and extended from the firetruck bay into the parking lot. The bay was bustling with activity as officers and volunteers helped distribute beans, milk, watermelons and other supplies to families seeking assistance.
"I'm stealing one of chief's quotes, but we can do more together," said ADPS Community Services Coordinator Cynthia Mitchell. "That's why we're doing this. The way we operate everyday, we're just part of the community ... That's why we're doing this. We have the space and the resources to be a drop point for the mobile food pantry, so it was a no-brainer."
Golden Harvest Food Bank has been doing mobile food pantries throughout the summer to reach pockets of need in rural areas. Golden Harvest relies on community networks to identify those areas, and a truck equipped with enough food supplies for 216 people rolls out to the identified locations.
"It's great to see such a great response because we do try to reach out to find new sites," said Golden Harvest Communications Coordinator Christina Alexander. "So to see this many volunteers and this many people lined up, we know that we have hit another pocket where there's a need that we can expand into."
However, the need on Aiken's Northside was greater than the food bank anticipated. Alexander had to send trucks back to Georgia for extra supplies as more than 260 families flooded into the ADPS firetruck bay, and the event ended nearly two hours later than had been planned.
Alexander said the food bank is also working with ADPS on emergency food boxes, which officers could deliver to families on scene that need emergency food supplies after an event such as a house fire.
In addition to Public Safety officers and Golden Harvest personnel, volunteers from organizations such as AECOM, Free Riders, Aiken Street Team and Concerned Ministers helped distribute the food supplies.
"This is their show," said Lt. Jake Mahoney of ADPS. "They're just doing it under our roof."
Mahoney said events like the mobile food pantry are to increase the department's community involvement and show that they are not always in "enforcement mode."
"The way we visualize our mission is to serve our community, not to just go out and enforce the law," Mahoney said. "The best way to get to know somebody is to sit down and have a meal with them. If you can't have a meal with them, at least you can offer some assistance to those who need it. That's what it's about."
"Our part of this is really pretty small," he continued. "We just open the doors."
Those who were not able to take part in the mobile food pantry can call 803-642-2912.