BENTON, Ark. – Volunteers were working hard at the Churches Joint Council on Human needs, or CJCOHN, in Benton on Tuesday morning. CJCOHN is a nonprofit organization of 14 Saline County churches that has been providing food, clothing and other services to low-income county residents since 1976.
The group spent Tuesday sorting through boxes of donated food and preparing for its big Christmas basket food distribution, which is scheduled for December 19th at noon. In the past, you could only pick up a food basket if you met a certain income requirement, but like everything else, the ongoing pandemic changed that.
“Right now, a lot of people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and so they could have been middle class, wealthy, and then all of a sudden lost everything,” Karen Ray, CJCOHN chairman, said.
Before the pandemic, CJCOHN held food distributions twice per week. Now that it has a reduced amount of volunteers, it is only able to hold food distributions twice per month, on the first and third Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The food distributions would not be possible without the Arkansas Foodbank.
“About 75 percent of our food is given to us by the Foodbank, which we purchase from them. And then the other 25 percent comes from churches and private donations,” Ray said.
While there’s a great need for food, there’s also a great need for volunteers. Since the pandemic hit, the majority of CJCOHN’s older volunteers decided to stay home. A crew of 12 has been grinding for the past nine months.
If you would like to volunteer or donate food or money, call 501-776-2912 or visit the CJCOHN Facebook page. CJCOHN is also looking for gift card donations to be able to give families, so their children can have Christmas gifts.