Vineland food distribution

Hassan Solomon, of Millville, packs the back of his vehicle with boxes of food on Wednesday. Community groups distributed food and necessities parcels to 800 needy families at West and Landis Avenues in Vineland.

Danny Drake

VINELAND -- Bridgeton resident Tang Massengill said she's one of those people caught in the middle financially.

Massengill said she barely earns enough from her job as a machine operator to support herself and the other family members - a daughter and four grandchildren - with whom she lives. She said her salary also is too much for her to qualify for government aid that would help put food on her table.

So on Wednesday, the 39-year-old sat in her car, waiting for boxes of food, toiletries and other essentials being distributed as part of Save the Children's Americans Feeding Americans project.

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"It will help," Massengill said of the parcels. "It will get me at least a week or two of food that I don't have to pay for out of my pocket."

For the second time in two days, volunteers helped distributed the parcels to about 800 needy residents in South Jersey. An event was held in Atlantic City on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, organizers were handing out the parcels in the parking lot of a small shopping center at Landis and West avenues. The operation ran smoothly. Needy families had earlier received vouchers with a time slot during which they could pick up their parcels. They drove through the parking lot, where about 60 volunteers from churches and various community groups placed the parcels in the cars.

The plan was to have about 100 vehicles go through every hour until 5 p.m., said Pat Constantino, director of training-and-employment services for PathStone, a nonprofit regional community-development and human-services organization that coordinated Wednesday's event. She said the planning was paying off, as there were no back-ups.

"We wanted to make this as comfortable for people as we could," said Constantino, a Deerfield Township resident. Constantino said the operation was going smoothly in large part because of the volunteers who not only helped Wednesday, but in the days leading up to the event.

"The volunteers have just been so good," she said. "It makes it worthwhile."

Vineland, Atlantic City and Newark are the only municipalities in New Jersey participating in the program.

Program officials said they picked Vineland and Atlantic City because of unemployment rates running at about 14 percent in Vineland and 12 percent in Atlantic City. High child-poverty rates also figured into their decision to pick the two cities, they said.

Two tractor trailers filled with what Constantino said was an estimated $200,000 worth of food and other essentials arrived at the scene her at about 6:30 a.m.

Pat Hannigan, property manager for Vineland Construction Co., said his business had two forklifts ready to unload the parcels. Next to arrive was local resident Curtis Johnson, who showed up about 30 minutes later.

"I came out to help out and feed the needy," said Johnson, adding he joined with other volunteers to unwrap the pallets of parcels and stack them so they could be easily given out.

Johnson also had another reason for attending: He said he was representing Glory Tabernacle Church in Bridgeton, which is planning to open a food pantry to help a growing number of people in the area who can't afford to buy their own food.

"There's been a lot of requests," he said.

Persons getting the parcels here on Wednesday said they needed help.

Millville resident Hassan Solomon, 31, said he lost his job with the United Parcel Service and has had a hard time finding work in Cumberland County. He said he now does some work for the Salvation Army in the county.

"I need it to put food on the table," said Solomon, who is living with his girlfriend, whom he is scheduled to marry next month. Solomon said the parcels will probably give him more items than he and his girlfriend can use.

"If I get more than expected, I'll take it to the Salvation Army to help somebody else," he said.

Melissa Gross, 45, who lives in Bridgeton with two daughters and four grandchildren, said she's been unable to find work because of the economy. Gross said she'll use the parcels to not only help her family, but hopefully some homeless people she knows in Bridgeton.

"I'll share it with them," she said. "I know a lot of homeless."

Gross said she's thankful for the parcels she received.

"It's a blessing," Gross said. "Praise God. Everybody needs a blessing."

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