TOMS RIVER — As executive director of Ocean County Hunger Relief for nearly 16 years, Carol Latif has never had to host an open house to attract volunteers and donations.

But the need for help is growing in the county, and donations are faltering "tremendously," as Latif describes it, so the faith-based organization is opening its doors to the public for two hours Thursday evening.

"I'm now going, 'Okay, public. Come on in. I need you,'" Latif told New Jersey 101.5. "There's a lot of people that I think want to help, but they just don't know how and they don't know who."

The outreach center on Germania Station Road handles a network of 26 food pantries throughout the county. An average of 6,000 to 7,000 people are fed per month through the organization.

Latif said the center has had a solid base of donors that helped keep the mission alive, but some of those frequent givers have fallen on hard times of their own. Some donations from foundations have dried up as well.

"I would never make a plea like this unless I really needed it, and I'm hoping there will be a good response," Latif said. "We need volunteers. We need people that would bring us donations — monetary donations, gift cards, clothing."

There's a thrift shop on site that helps with fundraising.

The open house runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Latif said folks who are unable to attend during those hours can visit earlier in the day.

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