FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Place of Forsyth is celebrating its 45th year of serving the area, and perhaps never has the need been so strong for the organization.

The Place has provided more than $500,000 in food to area residents this year and has seen a significant increase in those seeking first-time assistance in the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19.

As the organization continues to assist those in need, a major funding source will be back online. The Place of Forsyth Thrift Store is set to open May 26 for the first time since the doors were closed March 14.

Safety measure have been implemented, including limiting the number of customers to 15 inside the store at one time, hand sanitizer made readily available and carts are sanitized after each use. Facemasks will also be required to enter the store.

“We are requiring customers to wear masks simply because some of our customers are folks who would be considered higher risk,” The Place spokesman Jacob Granados said. “We want to make sure they are safe when they come in.”

Masks will also be available to purchase for $2.

Granados said the store closure for over two months resulted in a loss of around $150,000 for the organization, money used to help those facing food insecurity and to fund the organization’s various initiatives like its senior outreach and workforce development.

Those dollars are even more crucial now with more in the community needing help.

“The amount of people coming to our pantry has skyrocketed from what we would normally see,” Granados said.

Typically, he said, The Place would see about 40 to 60 first-time users of its food pantry in a month. Since mid-March, the number has risen to over 400 people.

“That put a new strain on our food processes, and we weren’t quite sure what was going to happen to meet the need,” Granados said.

The Place has been able to keep up with demand through the help of those in Forsyth County.

“The community has been very supportive and have brought in tons of food,” he said. “We have had people send Amazon food deliveries, so much so, we stopped counting after 1,000 boxes, and that was within two weeks of our COVID response.”

Granados said the community’s support has also been shown in the donations to the thrift store. The Place saw such an influx of donations over the first weeks of the pandemic that it had to stop accepting items despite renting three mobile storage units and Jason Taylor Moving lending a trailer for extra storage.

The Place will resume accepting donations for its store June 2.

While the organization is not celebrating its 45th year in the way it imagined, Granados said The Place will continue to serve.

“It’s hard to say what our future needs may be because so much is still up in the air,” he said. “It seems things are improving and heading in the right direction, but there is also talk of a possible second wave. It’s hard to know what our needs may be, but we do anticipate that people will still need food and other services, and we are committed to being there for them.”

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