Feast benefits families of fallen

By: David Bradley - Staff writer

LUMBERTON — Hundreds of people from across the region lined up Friday to buy plates heaped with chicken, barbecue or both to help the families of fallen state correctional officers.

“We survive off of each other. It’s all about the need,” said Barney Clark, a corrections officer at Robeson Confined in Response to Violation Center. “If there’s a need, we do it.”

The four-hour plate sale at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center raised money to help families of five fallen staff members at Bertie and Pasquotank correctional institutions attend the 37th annual Peace Officers Memorial Service on May 15 in Washington, D.C. The money will help with expenses such as air fare and lodging.

And it wasn’t only the folks who were having a bite for the cause.

“Businesses are buying plates, law firms, the DA’s office,” said Brad Perritt, Tabor Correctional Facility warden.

The goal was to sell 800 plates at a cost of $7 a plate, $8 for chicken and barbecue, in order to raise $5,000.

“At 12 o’clock we had sold 700. We’re sure we’ll make it,” Perritt said while plates were still being sold.

Five correctional officers at Bertie and Pasquotank correctional institutions died during 2017 in the line of duty.

They were Sgt. Meggan Callahan of Bertie Correctional Institution, who was killed by an inmate, and Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden, Officer Justin Smith, Officer Wendy Shannon and Maintenance Mechanic Geoffrey Howe, all of Pasquotank Correctional Institution, who died from injuries suffered during an inmate escape attempt.

“The Department of Public Safety is a family, we help our fallen staff members. (Hurricane) Matthew affected many of our fellow sister units.” said Katy Poole, Scotland County Correctional Institution administrator. “They helped us, our way to thank them now and the future is to help them.

“There are a lot of good staff,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without them. They do an outstanding job, and never get the praise that they deserve.”

The event was sponsored by the N.C. Department of Safety. Staff members from Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties came to help. Some of them worked the serving line to fill up plate boxes for delivery.

Tina Southerland was one of the volunteers.

“I’m giving back to officer’s families and their community because they work so hard,” she said.

J.C. Huggins, regional director of the South Central region of state prisons, praised his staff’s teamwork.

“It’s an opportunity to bring the staff together, to show teamwork,” Huggins said. “I’m honored and blessed to work with them.

“The staff has come together to show dedication and passion for all law enforcement personnel.”

Attending the event was Diane Pittman, a former member of the secretarial staff at a local prison. She said she came to the event to support her Department of Public Safety family, not just because she worked for the prison system, but because she has two family members in law enforcement careers.

“They provide a great service. They are there every day, and we don’t know what they face,” Pittman said. “It’s very scary.

“I’m not from here, but I want to help and support this area,” said Tommy Britt, of Charlotte. “I wouldn’t want that job in this day and time. If we didn’t have law enforcement officers we wouldn’t have rights or protection.”

David Bradley

Staff writer

Reach David at 910 416 2361 or [email protected]

Reach David at 910 416 2361 or [email protected]