LUMBER BRIDGE — Thanks to Mountaire Farms, as many as 8,000 needy people won’t go hungry on Thanksgiving.
The Lumber Bridge processing plant packed and distributed 2,200 boxes of food to 52 churches in Robeson and Cumberland County as part of its “Thanksgiving for Thousands” program on Saturday.
The churches will soon deliver the boxes to struggling families.
According to Rodrigo Lozano, the company’s Human Resources manager, each box contained enough food to feed at least four people.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “Our goal is to double it next year and distribute 4,400 boxes.”
For the past 19 years, Mountaire Farms has held the annual event at its corporate headquarters in Delaware. This marks the first year that the North Carolina facility has participated in the program.
“It’s been an exciting day and it hasn’t felt like work at all; we’re having fun,” said Yvette Brown, one of more than 100 employees who volunteered to help pack and load the boxes.
The company initially anticipated just 40 employees to volunteer, and the larger turnout allowed Mountaire to finish packing the boxes ahead of schedule.
At about 8:30 a.m., volunteers formed an assembly line beneath a large tent in the plant’s parking lot. They completed the packing phase of the event, which was expected to last at least three hours, by 9:30 a.m.
“It was a huge success,” said employee Christine Flores. “Everything just worked so well and we finished well before our allotted amount of time.”
Flores added that the event inspired a bit of friendly competition between volunteers to see who could assemble their boxes the fastest.
Each package of food contained a 4-pound roaster chicken, boxes of cornbread mix and brownie mix, and cans of gravy, green beans, corn and cranberries.
Mark Reif, community relations manager for Mountaire, estimated that all of the food cost the company between $40,000 and $50,000.
“The chicken alone was worth more than $30,000,” he said.
At about 11 a.m., church representatives arrived to collect the donations. Utility vehicles hauled palates of boxes to a loading area, where volunteers helped stack the packages onto the beds of trucks and backs of vans.
“I this is awesome. It’s great to be able to reach out and help people in need. They’re going to be very excited when we hand them these boxes,” said Ricky Deese, a pastor at Praise and Worship Ministries in Red Springs, who received 40 boxes.
“I think it’s wonderful that they’re doing this. This will help a lot of needy folks and, once they see the goodness of the Lord, they will want to see more,” said Jerry Batten, president of Freedom Christian Fellowship in Lumberton, who received 50 boxes.
Each church provided a detailed list of recipients to Mountaire before collecting the donations.
“That’s one of the reasons we went with the churches, because they designated where the boxes were going to,” Reif said.
“Thanksgiving for Thousands” is the latest in a series of charitable deeds that Mountaire has done for Robeson County.
Earlier this month, the company donated a fleet of bicycles to the annual Red Springs Toy Run. Mountaire also provides leg quarters to area churches twice each month.
“Part of our creed is that we’re supposed to be good neighbors in the community where we live and work,” Reif said. “We also try to be good stewards of what the Lord has provided. It’s part of our culture to give to those in need and we love doing it.”