Bridgestone employees celebrate for the "Yes We Can Food Drive" pep rally held Thursday featuring the N.C. Agriculture Food Cart.
Olivia Neeley | Times
By Olivia Neeley
Times Staff Writer
Bridgestone held its “Yes We Can Food Drive” pep rally Thursday aimed to get employees and the community pumped up for its annual food drive campaign.
Bridgestone’s food drive will end Nov. 18. And the company’s goal is much larger than last year.
“We want to take it to the next level,” said Michael Darr, plant manager. “We are looking to break a record this year — 50,000 pounds. It’s more important this year than ever because we know the food banks are depleted because of the hurricane.”
Last year, Bridgestone exceeded its goal of 30,000 pounds. Instead, employees collected 48,000 pounds of food.
“Our people here have the biggest hearts,” said Robert Johnson, Bridgestone employee and food drive chairman. “These people do an outstanding job each year.”
Thursday’s pep rally was held outside near the plant’s cafeteria. In addition to games and fun, employees also got the chance to meet nonprofits within the Wilson community who will benefit from the food drive. Those agencies include the Salvation Army, Wesley Shelter, Hope Station, United Community Ministries, the Community Soup Kitchen of Wilson County and St. John’s AME Community Center. Bridgestone is also giving the public a chance to get involved in its food drive. Barrels have been placed at the front gate where the public can also drop off food items from now until Nov. 18.
FRESH PRODUCE AND MEATS
Bridgestone employees can also donate money this year during the food drive. Johnson said that money can be given to the agencies so they can buy local and fresh produce and meats for pantry clients.
“This way, we give to the agency who know what their needs are,” Johnson said.
The rally Thursday also featured the large N.C. Agriculture Food Cart, which is used throughout the state at various public functions.
“We wanted something to get people’s attention,” said G.W. Stanley, domestic marketing manager with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We have a story to tell. Buy local and support our farmers.”
Stanley said the food cart was a perfect way to heighten awareness of local food. He said monetary donations given by Bridgestone employees to go to the agencies gives food pantries a chance to buy locally.
The Rev. Linda Walling, Hope Station’s executive director, said Thursday was a great opportunity to educate the community at large about donating healthier food items for people who depend on their local pantries for nutritious needs.
“With our emphasis on healthier foods, it’s good to talk to people on what our clients actually need and healthier options rather than making assumptions,” Walling said.
A GREAT OPPORTUNITY
Maj. Cindy Capps, the Salvation Army’s social worker, said she was happy to be a part of the rally Thursday at Bridgestone.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to share the story and express how grateful we are for their generosity and their willingness to help families in our communities,” Capps said. “It takes each of us to reach everyone in our community.”
Capps’ husband, John, who is a Salvation Army volunteer, said it was great to be among all the other organizations represented Thursday.
“We work closely on a daily basis from a standpoint of those out in the community in need,” he said. “We deal with individuals every day, whether they are homeless or in financial peril.”
He said all the organizations work together to meet people’s needs.
A PASSION TO HELP
Johnson said Bridgestone employees are also holding a competition between departments to see which teams can donate the most food and raise the most money.
“You’ve got to have fun,” Johnson said.
He said when they kicked off the food drive, organizers circulated a video about the initiative. Johnson said that video explains to teammates how important the food drive is for hunger, not just in the Wilson community, but across the state and the nation as well.
Darr said he is proud of employees who continually pour their hearts into a project that helps so many in need within the community.
“Our folks have a passion and it spills out of them,” Darr said. “We are looking forward to a record-breaking year.”