Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, 10,000 meals donated to Camden residents offer hope

Effort of tattoo parlor owner, local restaurants now becoming community pantry

Food being delivered to the Camden Community Pantry in Kingsland.
Food being delivered to the Camden Community Pantry in Kingsland. (WJXT)

CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. – A giving spirit can be just as contagious as a virus -- with much more rewarding effects.

Last fall, Second Skinn Tattoo in Kingsland spearheaded a fundraiser to pay off the lunch debt in all Camden County schools.

This spring, the owner of the Southeast Georgia tattoo parlor decided that instead of presents for his birthday, he wanted to help others. Derek Bunkley bought $400 worth of gift cards from Winn-Dixie and others donated too, allowing him to hand out $3,500 in gift cards to the community.

All as the COVID-19 pandemic was keeping his business shut down.

“I looked at my son and said, ‘Son, we can’t sit back and do nothing.’ I said, ‘You know there’s a lot of people out of work. There’s going to be a lot of unemployment, a lot of people who are going to live paycheck to paycheck. They’re not going to know what to do,’" Bunkley said.

Then Bunkley -- with the help of many local restaurants -- began providing meals to residents in Camden County.

“We’ve cooked, in the last three weeks, over two tons of pork and one ton of chicken and gave it back to the community,” Bunkley told News4Jax.

With his business set to reopen Friday, thanks to Gov. Brian Kemp’s new order, Bunkley said he knows he will not be able to sustain the effort alone.

He and Pastor Greg Gardell are working together to create Camden Community Pantry as a community effort because the need is so great in the county.

“Even though we’re going to be able to go back to work, that doesn’t mean that everything is going to be OK because we’re still going to have really high unemployment,” Bunkley said. “If we can put food into people’s homes a week at a time, we can get through this.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Bunkley said nearly 700 meals were handed out within 20 minutes.

“I’m not crazy, but it is the craziest thing that a virus has brought us all together and allowed us to do some great things and that’s just the beginning,” Gardell said. “'With that happening, we do know now what we can do together, and we’re just going to keep going to greater heights.”

Bunkley and a handful of restaurants have donated money, meals and their time to provide more than 10,000 meals over the span of three weeks.

Food was delivered Wednesday to the Camden Community Pantry, which is in the process of opening in the back of Restoration Church at 2475 Village Dr., Kingsland. It is not affiliated with the church.

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