The Atlantic Baptist Association has stepped up with funding to temporarily provide free lunches for the elderly at the Havelock Senior Center.
Free lunches that had been served to seniors in the congregate meals program ended on June 28, with cuts in funding and new criteria administered through Craven County’s aging advisory board.
The Craven County Board of Commissioners elected to cut all funding for the meals program to Havelock and Harlowe, saying those few seniors who did qualify under the new criteria could come to New Bern to participate in the program.
Havelock and Harlowe officials argued that they were being unfairly targeted, that the cuts in program funding should have been spread throughout the county instead of directed toward the eastern half.
"Our pastor was aware of what the county commissioners had done as far as defunding from Havelock east and not defunding from New Bern west, and it just didn’t sit right with him," said Lydia Allen, a member of Neuse River Baptist Church in New Bern.
Allen and others organized a fund drive through the Baptist association "because people don’t need to be hungry, especially our senior people that don’t have means of working."
"Some of these folks have to choose between medicine and food and that’s just not right," Allen said. "God tells us that we’re always going to have the poor with us and it’s our job to take care of them. They could be my grandmother. It could be me in a few years. It could be our neighbors."
A.D. Brady, director at the Havelock Senior Center, said the association managed to raise enough money to provide meals for two months.
"I’m just in total awe of their generosity," he said.
Havelock Commissioner George Liner said the solution is temporary until supporters of the program can get the county back on board.
"It’s not a permanent fix," he said. "They’ve picked up some slack until we can get this ironed out. We’re still working with the county."
The first meal, a chicken salad sandwich with a salad and banana dessert, was served Wednesday by volunteers from the Havelock Senior Center Advisory Board, chairman Dean Roberts said.
Petitions have been created in Harlowe and Havelock urging Craven County to reconsider the cuts, which amounts to $30,000 for Havelock and $4,000 for Harlowe. Roberts said about 235 names are on the petition, which has been sent to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., 3rd Dist.
Allen said the Atlantic Baptist Association and Havelock-Cherry Point Ministerial Association would hold a meeting in August to raise more funds.
"All the different faiths are represented there and we’re going to see what we can do as a religious community to keep food in their bellies," Allen said. "It’s not going to just be the Baptists. It’s going to be all needs that will be treated. It is not a Baptist endeavor. It’s a Christian endeavor."
Havelock City Manager Jim Freeman said a meeting between the city and county was planned to work on solving the situation.
"These people are hungry," Brady said. "They should be fed."