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Sheila Barrera, left, coordinator of the Safe Baby Program, and Staria Davidson, coordinator of the Veterans Court, are preparing a box with food for locals in need. Through their efforts, The Store House, an initiative that provides free groceries to anyone in need, is now up and running at 600 Hickerson St. in Manchester. The Safe Baby and Veterans courts are two of the programs under the umbrella of the Coffee County Drug Court Foundation.

Store House opens in Manchester

Through their jobs with the Coffee County Drug Court Program, Sheila Barrera and Staria Davidson often come across people in need. And when the women realized just how many families in the area are struggling to put food on the table, they decided to do something about it.

The fruit of their labor, The Store House, an initiative providing free food for anybody in need, is now up and running at 600 Hickerson St. in Manchester,

Barrera is the coordinator of the Safe Baby Program, and Davidson works as coordinator of the Veterans Court. The Safe Baby and Veterans courts are two of the programs under the umbrella of the Coffee County Drug Court Foundation.

The Store House is based in one of the drug court foundation’s buildings, which houses offices of the Safe Baby and Veterans Court programs.

 

How did it start?

“We just saw the need, so we opened the food pantry in August,” Davidson said.

The initiative was launched in August, after a man knocked on the door to ask Davidson for food.

“We had a young man that came to our office, and he said he was hungry,” Davidson said. “He had been let out of jail and he had no money and nowhere to go.”

That day, Davidson bought groceries for the man.

Davidson and Barrera tried to come up with a plan to battle the hunger that affects too many families and individuals in the community.

“I talked to Sheila, and we said, ‘We can’t have this – this is the land of plenty’,” Davidson said. “After that, Sheila and I started talking, and we got in touch with Tom Henry, executive director of Feed America First.”

Based in Murfreesboro, Feed America First receives food donations from manufacturers, producers and retailers, and then distributes them to organizations such as food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

Feed America First offered to help, and the Store House was launched. Davidson and Barrera started going to Murfreesboro once a week to bring back food items to stock The Store House.

“They gave us free food, so we started giving it out,” Davidson said.

Davidson also asked local businesses and grocery stores, including Kroger and Publix, for support, and they were glad to help.

“We get scratch-and-dent items, day-old bread, and anything they cannot sell but that is still edible,” Davidson said.

The Store House also recently signed a contract with Arnold Air Force Base, and now receives items from the AEDC commissary.

“We also partner with Good Samaritan of Manchester and Tullahoma, Food Lion, Walmart, Donut Palace, Sonic Drive-In and Prater’s Bar-B-Que of Manchester, and Route 55 BBQ of Tullahoma,” Davidson said.

 

Anyone is welcome

Davidson invites anyone in need of groceries to visit the Store House between 1 and 4 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Though Wednesday afternoon is the most convenient time, food donations are available any day, added Davidson.

“Anybody can come for food,” Davidson said. “It gets bigger and bigger. Last Wednesday, we served 54 families.”

Davidson said it’s unacceptable to leave individuals hungry, when there is a great quantity of goods.

“There are people that need help, and we just have an abundance,” Davidson said.

Thanks to the initiative, some individuals who have found themselves in rough situations can focus on rebuilding their lives, said Barrera.

“We are feeding about 100 families a week, at least,” Barrera said. “Anytime, if somebody comes and says ‘I am hungry,’ we fix them a box. We don’t put a limit on what we give out. If you are hungry and have to repair your car, you have to choose between going to work and feeding your family – it shouldn’t be like that. So we give out every day.”

The Store House also provides an essential source of support for some of the individuals who are in the programs of the drug court foundation.

“We have families that are in our recovery programs – if they don’t have food to eat, they can’t focus on their recovery,” Barrera said.

Barrera stressed the significance of helping people.

“It started becoming important when I saw people trying to put their lives back together, and they couldn’t even eat,” Barrera said. “That’s how it started.”

David Statum, coordinator for Family Treatment Court, another program under the umbrella of the drug court foundation, added, “if somebody is hungry it’s hard for them to focus on who they are supposed to be and do the work they are supposed to do.”

“If people have food, they can go and do the things they need to do,” Statum said. “If they are in school, they can learn; if they are at work, they can work – their mind will be more set to learn and to grow and to bless other people.”

For more information, call Barrera at 931-636-8660 or Davidson at 931-247-5272.

Elena Cawley may be reached via email at ecawley@tullahomanews.com.