As of Tuesday morning, about 84 businesses, churches and organizations had agreed to be part of People Helping People, which launched last month and runs through Dec. 20.
Participants in the program receive grocery cards that can be used at Super Gallo Mercado on South Jackson Street in Jacksonville.
Store manager Tony Wilburn said people simply present the card to a cashier, and 10 percent of the purchase is set aside to provide food items for those in need. The cards cannot be used with purchases of beer and wine, tobacco products or WIC (Women, Infant and Children) items.
Wilburn said each participant will choose families in need and tell the store how many families they want to help. Food items will be given out Dec. 22.
“We just wanted to be able to give back, so we just came up with this program and wanted to bring the community together (and) help the less fortunate,” Wilburn said. “We want to make this about the community.”
Tina Hargett, with Rainbow's End, said she knew she wanted to participate the minute she was asked.
She said the scripture on program signs caught her attention because the store is willing to proclaim that they are doing this to express God's love.
Phillip Lybrand, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, said the program is something people could get involved in through the church.
“I just feel like the reason we got involved is because it's being run really efficiently … It's actually pinpointing where the (food) need(s) to go. It's actually going to be people (that participants) know who need help…,” he said.
“I know the first Sunday I announced it, I didn't know what the response would be, but I ran out (of grocery cards) within five minutes. Two hundred fifty cards were given out in our church, so our church people are really on board.”
Wilburn encouraged more places like First Baptist Church and Rainbow's End to participate in People Helping People.
Current participants already include entities in Rusk and Palestine as well as Jacksonville.
According to a program flier, if 600 people spent $50 per week at Super Gallo for eight weeks, it would result in $24,000 returned to the community in food items.
“Our (hope) with this is to bring our community together — more as one. I hope with this it will inspire others to come up with their own programs and give back,” he said
For more information, call Super Gallo at 903-589-7654 or Wilburn at 903-372-1346.