SELBYVILLE – More than 350 community members worked elbow to elbow Saturday at Mountaire Farms shipping warehouse to pack 14,000 holiday meals for area churches and nonprofits to distribute to families in need.
“We’re only able to do this because of their help,” said Mountaire Farms Spokeswoman Cathy Bassett said.
This is the 29th annual Mountaire Cares’ “Thanksgiving for Thousands,” the poultry company’s signature annual charity event.
The majority of volunteers participate in “Thanksgiving for Thousands” year after year, she said.
“I volunteer for every single one they do,” said Mountaire employee Bostik Johnson of Berlin, Maryland.
“It’s an amazing thing they do for the community,” he said. “Times are rough right now and people like getting together and helping out.”
This year Mountaire broke its personal best record of number of Thanksgiving meals, each feeding a family of four, donated in one year since the food drive’s inception almost three decades ago.
Three sister Mountaire facilities in North Carolina were simultaneously producing similar holiday meal coffers Saturday, Bassett said, with a combined total of 152,000 individuals to be fed this Thanksgiving.
“This is a huge scale event,” said first time volunteer Jana McVee as she handed a frozen fresh young chicken to Indian River High School Junior Kendra Fehringer, a second-year volunteer.
Kendra and McVee, both of Millsboro, were stationed near the end of one of four assembly lines and had a great view of the venue brimming with busy volunteers.
“With this hard year, this is really needed,” said McVee, who is also a Mountaire employee. “I found a company that has similar values as mine.”
McVee joined Mountaire as a national food service account manager six months ago and has been pleased to discover how much her employer gives back to the community.
“Mountaire treats people with value, treats people like human beings, like they matter,” she explained.
Roasters last to go in box
Mountaire roasters were the last item deposited into each 13-inch cube box, joining two cans each of both corn and green beans, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, gravy and brownie mix for dessert.
Donated by Cambridge, Maryland packaging producer D.S. Smith, the 14,000 boxes were assembled the week prior to Saturday by Mountaire employees.
Bassett said volunteers are coached on their specific duties and precise positions prior to Saturday’s event.
“At 8 a.m. when we said. ‘Three, two, one, go!’ they were ready to go,” she said.
Volunteers formed four assembly lines, two lines inside the warehouse and two outside, and methodically stuffed the boxes one by one to prepare a Thanksgiving feast.
In the middle of lines, packing containers filled with non-perishable foods from local grocers were steadily emptied by volunteers to keep the production lines supplied.
Meanwhile, more than 200 pre-registered churches and nonprofits lined up outside the warehouse shipping doors at specified time slots throughout the day. They came in pick-up trucks, rented U-hauls and vans that were filled with the meals for the individual organizations to distribute to families they serve.
A pick-up truck can hold about 30 boxes of the Thanksgiving meals.
One-day packing, delivery
Bassett said this is the first year the event was done on just one day.
Previously, the packing was done on a Monday and the distribution was done on Tuesday.
“It’s quite an operation,” Bassett said. “It spreads so much joy, not only for families that receive it but everyone who touches the boxes along the way.”
“(There) was a lot of kindness shown throughout this event,” said Brooke Carpenter, 10, of Georgetown.
Brooke said she likes helping people so she volunteered Saturday with her dad, Mountaire employee Chad Carpenter.
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She was surprised at how hard everyone worked and the large number of boxes prepared surprised her, but said there was one thing about “Thanksgiving for Thousands” she anticipated.
“I did expect for this to be so great,” she said.
Bassett said the good will that volunteers show makes the Thanksgiving dinners complete.
“Every box is packed with love,” Bassett said. “We’re just proud…to make this happen.”
Freelance writer Katie Kazimir is a resident of Lewes and can be reached at 302-560-2211 or [email protected].
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