First Posted: 1/4/2014
LUMBERTON — Thanks to the Meat Store in Lumberton, hundreds of local people will start off the new year with a stocked fridge.
On Saturday morning, the East Fifth Street grocery handed out more than 4 tons — 8,000 pounds — of free food to anyone who wanted it. As it turned out, a lot of people did.
“I only expected 200 people or so to show up,” said store manager Daniel Fields, who wound up distributing cardboard boxes packed with food to a crowd of more than 700 people.
At one point, the line of people waiting in the cold to collect food stretched from the store’s parking lot to the water fountain near the Quick Check convenience store on Roberts Avenue.
The Meat Store has operated for seven years and is owned by Donald Stone.
As a result of contractual agreements with some of its food suppliers, the store found itself with a year-end surplus of lunch meat, yogurt, milk and other products. Realizing he had more food than he could sell before the expiration dates ran out, Fields gained permission from Stone to donate the surplus to the community.
“Giving it away is a lot better than throwing it away,” he said.
The giveaway, which was initially scheduled to run from 10 a.m. until noon, wrapped up at about 12:40 p.m. Fortunately, Fields’ family and staff received some assistance in dealing with the unexpectedly large turnout.
Members of Long Branch Baptist Church volunteered to pack cardboard boxes and plastic bags with food.
“It was a chance to do something good for our neighbors,” said Jeff Broadwell, a pastor at Long Branch. “This gave us a great opportunity to come out and help other people.”
Gregory McAuthur, who was one of the first people waiting in line to receive food, was also inspired to lend a helping hand.
“I’d rather be involved instead of being a spectator, so I told them that I would like to volunteer,” he said. “There’s a lot of need in this community and I wanted to help out.”
The Meat Store’s generosity didn’t go unappreciated by the folks standing in line.
“It’s a blessing from the business and from God and I’m very thankful. There are so many people around here who are without,” Keitha McAdoo said.
“We really appreciate it and God bless the owners,” said John West, a patron of the store.
The act of charity appeared to be contagious, as several people gave up their spots in line to help those who had already received food carry their boxes back to their vehicles.
“There are a lot of good people in this world with good hearts who care about their neighbors and friends,” Broadwell said.