NORTON — Burns Gilliam has been volunteering at Food Bank of Wise County for nearly 20 years.

At 96 years old, Gilliam hardly ever misses a day. Other volunteers admire his dedication and work ethic.

Burns moved around the warehouse during a reporter’s visit, sorting and filling bags and sitting down to take a short break when he needed.

“He is there every Tuesday and Friday,” said Food Bank of Wise County Chairman Bill Gilliam.

Burns explained that Sam Gilbert, the man who started the food bank, was his neighbor. “I saw what he was doing and thought that I should help out a little,” said Burns.

“I can’t do too much,” he continued. “I’m getting up in age. I fill up bags and do whatever I can.”

However, Burns and the food bank do plenty. Within the first six months of the year, the Food Bank of Wise County had served a total of 3,924 households and 12,171 individuals. That’s an average of 2,020 individuals a month throughout Wise County.

Bill Gilliam, who was recently appointed chair, said the food bank is part of the federal agriculture department’s Feeding America program and follows those federal qualification guidelines.

“If you receive food stamps, you automatically qualify,” explained Gilliam. “If you don’t receive food stamps, we look at other factors like SSI and monthly income.”

Gilliam stated that during his two years at the Pound location, he only had two people not qualify for the service.

“We have USDA commodities, but we still need donations,” said Gilliam.

He explained that while the USDA provides some goods, the food bank itself still purchases many of the items from Walmart and Food City, such as bread.

“The second week of July, the company that gave us bread informed us that they are no longer donating.”

Gilliam said that the food bank now spends $250 a week on bread alone for the three locations. He hopes that the community will help cover some of the expense. “That’s more than $12,000 a year,” he said.

Gilliam also expressed the need for volunteers as well. Gilliam explained that all positions are volunteer and it takes a lot to operate a warehouse. “We need people to help with housekeeping, keeping the office clean and keeping things organized,” said Gilliam.

As for Burns, he said, “I’ll continue for as long as the Lord lets me live.”

If you are interested in making a donation, you can send it to Food Bank of Wise County, P.O. Box 2977, Wise, VA 24293. Put “bread” in the subject line if you want to donate toward the purchasing of bread.

Bill Gilliam can also be contacted directly for donations and volunteering at 276/708-1575.

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