Jammin' bags full of yams


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

It’s simple, really, for Barry Rushing. He’s been blessed by God, so he helps those in need.

“I just like to do a lot of work to help people who need it,” Rushing said. “I’ve truly been blessed because I have plenty.”

Rushing helps folks in a variety of ways. He’s a volunteer fireman – for three departments – and he’s active in his church, Lebanon United Methodist Church in Walthall, located near Eupora.

On Nov. 10 Rushing will take part in another area of service for him and his wife Audrey – gleaning sweet potatoes for the Society of St. Andrew. The hunger-fighting organization will host Yam Jam at a farm near Bellefontaine.

“This is one way of doing God’s work, getting out and picking potatoes,” Rushing said. “I’d just rather get out and do the physical labor and do God’s work that way.”

Jessica Burks, who works for the Mississippi Gleaning Network of SoSA in Mathiston, said church groups and individuals are invited to join the organization at 7:30 a.m. at the farm. The goal, she said, is to have 200 volunteers pick 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes.

“Yam Jam surrounds the whole Thanksgiving idea,” Burks said. “We are to give thanks. God has provided for us on this Earth. We are thankful for food and the people that get us that food, farmers and agencies. It’s time to give back.

“When we’re eating sweet potato pies right out of the oven, let us be reminded that…it’s time to give back and help those in need.”

SoSA has been working fields owned by the same farmer for several weeks. In seven visits to the fields, more than 60 volunteers have already gleaned 25,000 pounds of sweet potatoes.

The crops are available for gleaning “because (the potatoes) are too small or they have disk scrapes,” Burks said. The nutrient-rich sweet potatoes make a difference; salvaging 20,000 pounds of potatoes could feed 2,500 families in Mississippi.

Rushing said that’s who he seeks to help. “I’m more oriented to helping local people than overseas,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe the poverty and hunger in Mississippi.”

Burks said reaching the goal shouldn’t be hard. She pointed out that on a recent visit to the fields, 11 volunteers picked 8,000 pounds of potatoes. Working hours are flexible. While the Yam Jam is planned for 7:30-11 a.m., groups are welcome at any time. If they come a little late and want to stay longer, Burks said that’s fine. Groups attending are asked to sign a liability waiver.

Once the potatoes are picked and bagged, they are given to food networks and pantries such as the Mississippi Food Network. Just about any group that provides food to the hungry is welcome to receive potatoes.

For information about gleaning opportunities such as Yam Jam or to get directions to the field, call Burks at 662-263-8648.