PHOTO CAPTION: Lanita Lloyd (checked bandanna), director of emergency disaster services for the Georgia Division, and Kelley Bedore (right), director of The Salvation Army Service Center in Tifton, Georgia, hand out free milk at a “Milk-A-Palooza” in Tifton on June 23.

Free milk flows to The Salvation Army in Georgia

By: David Ibata

It’s not manna from heaven, but something close: Free gallon jugs of fresh milk to any household in need, courtesy of the Borden Dairy Co., the USDA and The Salvation Army.

“It’s a huge need, because our numbers of COVID-19 cases are rising, and people are afraid to go out,” said Kelley Bedore, director of The Salvation Army Service Center in Tifton, Georgia, a rural community about 180 miles south of Atlanta.

Borden, based in Dallas, Texas, was awarded a contract in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its Farmers to Families Food Box Program of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. The dairy will supply 700 million servings of fresh milk to qualifying nonprofits in the South and Midwest.

Twenty-nine Salvation Army corps and service centers in the Georgia Division have expressed interest in the program, according to Lanita Lloyd, divisional director of emergency disaster services. The Marietta and Thomasville corps and Tifton, Bainbridge and Americus service centers have signed up.

“The majority are starting with small quantities and making sure they can distribute the milk quickly, because most of The Salvation Army units do not have large refrigerated storage,” Lloyd said. “We’re disbursing milk within hours of receiving it.”

Tifton had its first “Milk-A-Palooza” on June 23.

“The Borden man brought about 250 gallons of fresh, cold milk from their plant in Albany (Georgia),” Bedore said. “He set up a table outside the service center, and we distributed milk to the community.”

Anticipating bigger crowds at the second milk distribution on July 10, Bedore, her team of volunteers and a Salvation Army mobile feeding unit (canteen) set up at the Tifton Mall shopping center. Bedore’s daughter, Logan Seeman, 22, pitched in, drawing up “Free Milk” signs.

About 400 bottles of milk were given to individuals and families; 30 bottles delivered to senior citizens at home; and 200 bottles shared with other social service providers.

“I reached out to different agencies to see if they had a need,” Bedore said. “One was a day care and another, a soup kitchen. So we’re providing for the other nonprofits in town.”

Bedore said The Salvation Army will continue giving out free milk as long as Borden keeps delivering it.

“Especially for the elderly or for the health-compromised, they can pull up in their car and we’ll put the milk in their back seat and they can be on their way with no contact,” Bedore said. “This has been such a blessing.”