LUMBERTON — More than 100 needy children will be sporting new wheels come Christmas morning, thanks to Campbell’s Soup, and the executive director of the Robeson County Church and Community Center is looking for others to follow the company’s path.
In addition to the bicycles, volunteers unloaded 5,000 pounds of canned goods and 5,000 pounds of potatoes Friday as they danced and sang Christmas carols. The donations were provided by Campbell’s and Adam DeGroop Farms.
“We just feel so blessed with what we have that we just want to help as a group,” said Jerry Feeney, manager of the Campbell’s Maxton plant. “We want to help our neighbors get by this Christmas and all year round. It’s a pleasure for us to do this.”
The delivery, courtesy of J.B. Hunt trucking company, nearly brought center Director Darlene Jacobs to tears.
“We are excited about this,” Jacobs said. “It just makes you feel really good to know that because of this donation we are going to make a difference in (the lives of) families and children.
“We still need more toys. We need more coats and clothing for children 12 and under. Even just donating a blanket for a child makes a difference.”
The donated toys will be distributed through the center’s Brighter Christmas Program, which provides toys and food to needy families for the holiday.
“Last year we had about 500 applicants and we were able to help about 300 people,” Jacobs said. “This year we got 150, so we will be able to help all of the families who applied. It is truly a great feeling.”
While applications are no longer being accepted, people within the county have sponsored needy families.
“We keep a list of all the people who missed out on the application period,” Jacobs said. “When people call and want to sponsor a family, we pair them up, but we are still short by about 20 sponsors. It’s still early, so I’m hopeful.”
Currently, the center distributes about 70 boxes of canned goods, bread, peanut butter, meat, shampoo, cereal and juice per day.
Jacobs estimated that the donated canned food is enough to last until February, but other items are needed for the care boxes.
“It’s hard to put a quantifier on it all,” Jacobs said. “We’ll be able to help about 2,800 families with what we got, but it’s still not everything we need to get the job done.”
She said she has walked in the shoes of those who depend on the center’s help for Christmas.
“I understand most of the challenges and needs of the families on a personal level,” she said. “It’s almost beyond words to know that at the end of the day, you have made a difference in somebody’s life. It’s rewarding both personally and professionally.”