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Compassion ain't shut down: Volunteers step up to keep furloughed government workers fed

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BY FRANK KRACHER

HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. (CIRCA via WLOS) -- Almost a month into the shutdown, federal workers say they are really starting to feel the pinch.

It doesn't matter whether they are on the job, listed as essential, or furloughed at home, there's no money coming in to pay the bills. But people are reaching out to help.

By all indications, the standoff in Washington isn't going anywhere and it's certainly not putting food on the table of furloughed workers.

At Kanuga Conference And Retreat Center outside Hendersonville, the kitchen staff was busy putting fried chicken on the tables Friday, preparing to serve up plates for more than just the groups already booked for conferences and retreats.

"We saw a unique opportunity, being a conference center and a retreat center here in Western North Carolina, for our community, especially furloughed federal employees and their families," the Kanuga Center's Jimmy Haden said. "We're serving three meals a day, let's include them, we have extra seats. It's, we can prepare the extra food, let's include them. So that's why we did it."

Tony Johnson, who has worked at Kanuga for 25 years, has never found himself in an employment crisis. He said that is why it is so important to cook for people who are in that spot.

"It makes a difference," he said. "It makes me good that I'm helping people, you know, they're unfortunate what's happening. I just feel so bad for people when they just want to live their lives, and they have no control over it because adults can't compromise."

Kanuga served breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday, and all federal employees and their families were welcome.

At MANNA Food Bank in Asheville, supplies were handed out Friday.

Mike Rice, who has been a federal employee for 16 years, said the shutdown is hitting home.

"You don't realize it until you get in that situation, having to spread your resources awful thin," Rice said. "Every little bit helps, no matter what it is."

At MANNA, federal employees can use their government IDs to choose from a long list of basic supplies like pasta, cereal, bottled water and much more.

MANNA officials said supplies for federal workers will be available from 3-6 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday through the end of the month.

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