GNTC’s Phi Beta Lambda focuses on meeting community needs

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Dressed in hair nets and gloves, four members of Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) student organization Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) measured out 12 ounce bags of macaroni noodles before sealing and packaging them at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.

The GNTC students were volunteering at the Northwest Georgia Branch of the food bank which supports seven in GNTC’s service area as well as Fannin and Gilmer counties. The three students, Raul Soto, Zillali Aguilar-Moreno and Flor Querido spent around four and a half hours at the food bank on Wednesday, Dec. 11 and will head to the Chattanooga branch on Friday to continue assisting in packing food that will be distributed to the local community.

“This PBL has decided that we are going to find specific groups in the community that are in need and offer assistance,” Georgina Valderrama, PBL coordinator said. “We are here because we love to help.”

The Wednesday trip was Soto’s second time assisting the food bank, an organization he has come to admire through his past volunteer work. The Industrial Systems Technology student first volunteered with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank during the summer when one of his instructors, Grace Beam, organized a volunteer trip for his class. Soto organized the PBL trip to the Dalton food bank and said the entire volunteer process was well coordinated.

Georgina Valderrama, Phi Beta Lambda coordinator, uses a heat sealer to secure a 12-ounce bag of macaroni noodles at the Northwest Georgia Branch of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank on Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Georgina Valderrama, Phi Beta Lambda coordinator, uses a heat sealer to secure a 12-ounce bag of macaroni noodles at the Northwest Georgia Branch of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

“They are very organized,” he said. “If you go on their website you can find everything including volunteer information.”

On the GNTC group’s return trip Friday, Dec. 13, the group packed what the food bank calls “sack packs” which are given out to regional elementary school students who may not have access to a meal over the weekend. Bags hold cereal, milk, juice, fruit, granola bars, soup, and even recipes, according to the food bank’s website. The packs are distributed throughout 20 counties and nearly 2,000 elementary students take one home every week.

According to Melanie Hammontree, director of Development of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, the food packed by the four volunteers could have far reaching effects. The food bank services a 20 county area in both Tennessee and Georgia as well as the food pantries in those areas. The Chattanooga food bank will be full when the GNTC volunteers arrive on Friday she said, hypothetically if the organization received no more donations in three weeks the warehouse would be completely empty.

“That is how much food we go through and send out to those pantries,” said Hammontree. “We could not do what we do in these communities without donations and the volunteers who help sort through the food.”

The macaroni Phi Beta Lambda sorted through on Wednesday was donated to the bank through a partnership with a manufacturer. In four and a half hours, the four volunteers packed around 400 of the 12 ounce bags, putting a 300-pound dent in the 1,100-pound shipment the food bank received.  

The seven GNTC counties the Chattanooga Area Food Bank serves are Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield. Floyd and Polk counties are serviced by the Atlanta Community Food Bank, who like the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, is a part of the national organization Feeding America.

According to Valderrama, Phi Beta Lambda’s next community undertaking will be to gather food and diapers for the Latin American Association Dalton Outreach Center. The PBL organization is made up of students from several GNTC campuses and all GNTC students are welcome to participate or join.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 12,785 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,499 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,286 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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