A three-way community partnership is helping to feed Eastern North Carolina families as the need increases due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rotarians across District 7730 have joined with Golden Corral and the Salvation Army in a project that is distributing protein packs of meat to families in need throughout the district.
The $40 protein packs available at Golden Corral in Jacksonville include an assortment of ground beef, chicken, pork, fish and rice, and can feed a family of four for several days.
Golden Corral began offering the protein packs as part of its new to-go menu as restaurants had to close their dining areas as part of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Soon after purchasing packs individually, local Rotarians also saw a growing need in their communities as families sought food assistance from different sources.
"I was on a Rotary conference call and I could see the line at the (Onslow County) food giveaway going on at Swansboro United Methodist Church," said Jacksonville Rotarian April Clark. "They were out of food early. There is such a need out there."
That conference call was with Maysville Rotarian Nancy Barbee. Both are past district governors for Rotary District 7730.
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"We were talking about what we could do and (Barbee) took the ball and said ‘Let’s do this,’" Clark said.
That conversation led to another and the protein pack project took off at full speed.
Laura Hagerman, a Maysville Rotarian who also works with the Salvation Army of Jones and Onslow County, said Barbee contacted her so see how they could help.
"Nancy reached out and asked how they could help Salvation Army and I let her know that during our daily food pantry we had 40 to 80 households we were assisting. The need for food is great," Hagerman said.
Hagerman said from those initial conversations, a partnership grew that is now helping families across the Rotary district.
Golden Corral in Jacksonville is supplying the protein packs and Rotary clubs across the district are sponsoring the purchase of protein packs and helping with their distribution through the Salvation Army’s locations in Onslow, Jones, Morehead City and Wilmington.
Hagerman said Barbee is coordinating distribution as they get groups of 10 packs. Local Rotary clubs such as the one in Sneads Ferry are also working to reach areas that may not have a Salvation Army location nearby.
"This has turned out to be more than we could have ever expected," Hagerman said.
Clark said the Rotary district has agreed to match some of the funds raised by local clubs and Golden Corral owner Billy Sewell, also a Rotarian, has donated some of the protein packs as well as the ones Rotary is purchasing.
Sewell, president and CEO of Platinum Corral in Jacksonville, a multi-unit franchise operator of Golden Corral Buffet-Grill restaurants, said the project is a good opportunity to help others.
"I’m a Rotary member and donated to Salvation Army and saw this as a good partnership," Sewell said.
Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at 910-382-2557 or Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com.