The heart of Giving Hearts food pantry in Carrollton walks through isles and past tables and shelves filled with food. Fresh produce and dry goods, both donated and purchased through grants, weigh down even the sturdiest racks. Denise Etienne Shackelford isn’t fazed, though. For almost a decade Shackelford has shaped the food pantry from emergency boxes to a full-blown grocery shopping experience.
“When people get to pick what they want, that gives them dignity,” she emphasizes.
The Client Choice Pantry concept was formulated through attempts to support the needs of the community. During Covid, partnering with the Atlanta Food Bank, Mobile Pantry option was introduced through North Point Baptist Church. The Mobile Pantry concept grew into providing fresh produce and vegetables to three additional key locations including Antioch Baptist Church, Asemblea de Dios Church, and God is Good Prophetic International Church. This provided residents the opportunity to get food on a weekly basis while serving different areas in Carrollton. As of Monday, September 11th, the pantry began operating out of Catalyst Church off Highway 113 in Carrollton. Shackelford shares that the space was so desperately needed that they have already filled every nook and cranny in the space Catalyst Church has provided.
Clients are able to shop Once a month by appointment allowing Shackelford and her volunteers to schedule their next appointment in advance allowing scheduling specific and steady dates Thankfully, Catalyst Church will only be a few miles away from where the former location on Mt. Zion Blvd so patrons won’t have to change their commute too much. Another benefit of the move includes increased accessibility for patrons with disabilities. The pantry sits entirely downstairs, so patrons can skip the pain of climbing stairs for entry.
While touring the new location, our team noted non-grocery items Giving Hearts has stocked for the grand re-opening on October 7th: toilet paper, paper towels, and even diapers. These items unfortunately become an afterthought even when donations come pouring in around the holidays.
Shackelford insists on increasing the goods given away each year. In previous years, she has volunteered insurmountable time, ingenuity, her own resources, and her gentle compassion to help people around her – and she has completed that in a few different ways.
With over 25 years as project manager in Finance for a Major Telecommunication company , Shackelford found that the stress she was experiencing needed to change. In 2012, she volunteered with a small pantry in Monroe GA and immediately took upon the various tasks with ease and confidence. She cites her father’s adage, “The greatest sin is to see someone in need and not do anything.” With parental wisdom and decades of experience, Shackelford took on the challenge of fighting hunger, tooth and nail. Even with her moving to Carrollton from the Atlanta area in 2016, her work didn’t skip a beat.
Within two years of moving to the West Georgia area, Shackleford observed that many food programs for children only operate during the school year – meaning many children go hungry during the holidays and the summer break. She partnered with North Point Baptist Church to help with donations and hosting. Shackelford has also created a program for feeding seniors in need, as well. Eventually these separate entities joined forces under Giving Hearts, Inc., now a force to be reckoned with.
Last December Shackelford spoke to West Georgia Woman outlining some of her goals for Giving Hearts’ future, one of which was finding and staying at a larger facility. God Is Good Prophetic International Ministries offered them the opportunity to set up in their kitchen. With that, the pantry was formed and operating out of 800 square feet in the church. The reception and need grew so quickly that within 6 month the facility could no longer support the need. As it happened, Ben and Angie Bonner of Catalyst Church offered a portion of their facility off N. Highway 113 in Carrollton. The pantry relocated the last week of August and first week of September. They reopened to the public on September 11, 2023
“No one should feel embarrassed that they need help,” Shackelford says gently. “Everyone is going through something; we need to be conscientious. People could be on the edge, and you wouldn’t know.”
According to data collected by the USDA, 9% of Georgians are food insecure. Although lower than the national average, many of those households include children. Shackelford believes that when you keep pushing, something will give.
Maybe you’re reading this and need additional help. Perhaps you’d like to donate or volunteer. Denise and her wonderful team of volunteers are ready to take you in. You can visit their website for more information and to donate at www.givinghearts-inc.org or their Facebook page for updates. You can also contact Denise at [email protected] or by phone 770-744-3889. They are located at 1103 Highway 113 in Carrollton in the back of Catalyst Church.
Shackelford wants to thank Pastor Lee Wimberly, Pastor Vincent Dortch, Pastor Rudy Cassia, Pastor Lynn McKee, and Gary Chagnon of Rome, GA for their help and support. Giving Hearts Food Pantry, Addressing Community Hunger One Step At A Time.