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Donna Suggs didn’t know what to expect when she headed out to volunteer at the OIC of Wilson Wednesday.
“I didn’t realize what the need would be until I saw the line this morning,” said Suggs, a Merck employee. “That just made me want to help even more and come back.”
Hundreds of households received food Wednesday as a part of the Opportunities Industrialization Center’s quarterly food drive held at its headquarters on Reid Street.
Suggs, along with other volunteers, packed, stuffed and distributed bags of food to those in need. She said volunteering Wednesday gave her great joy and it was an opportunity to help “those less fortunate to have what they need.”
The all-volunteer project is for Wilson County residents who are certified by the local Department of Social Services to receive assistance. And recipients left with an array of food that will help them as they try to make ends meet.
Each quarter, businesses, industries, churches and groups band together to volunteer for the project.
“Without them none of this could be possible,” said Jesse Raudales, the OIC’s director of operations. “They do everything from start to finish.”
Volunteers unload the truck of food on Monday and Tuesday, stuff bags, distribute food and do it all with a smile.
“I just love helping people,” Suggs said as she volunteered Wednesday.
Food items distributed Wednesday included turkey breast, canned pork, bacon, kidney beans, green beans, pinto beans, blueberries, corn, eggs, figs, fish, mixed fruit, grape juice, peanut butter, pears, plums, sweet potatoes and assorted pastries.
Doris Riggins, 58, said she was grateful for the distribution.
“It helps feed myself and helps me to share with neighbors,” she said. “I love my neighbors. I help with the children.”
Officials say hunger is a real issue here in Wilson County and beyond. Some people have lost their jobs, others are elderly and disabled and trying to get by on a fixed income. And there are those who are employed but due to low wages, they often have to make a decision whether to pay rent or buy food, officials say.
During Wednesday’s distribution, free confidential screenings for health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure and communicable diseases were provided. Information on heart disease, cholesterol and weight control were also available. Wilson County Health Department staffers as well as Barton College nursing students regularly help with the health component each time.
“We get a lot of people wouldn’t normally go and get tested to come and get tested,” said Raudales.
While the OIC holds its quarterly food distribution through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the center’s main purpose is to get people off assistance and out of poverty and place them in jobs. OIC has done that for years through its education and job training programs. Its staff also works closely with business and industries throughout Wilson and surrounding counties.
Raudales said the organization has placed 115 people on jobs in the past eight months, all of whom are making above minimum wage and were direct hires from businesses.