Smithfield Foods feeds 500 first responders and healthcare workers

PENDER COUNTY (WWAY) — Life is rarely a picnic for first responders, but on Wednesday a local food processing plant provided one for them.

Smithfield Foods set up two trailers and tents full of food for first responders and Pender County healthcare workers.

“They donated everything, said Stacey Wright, and EMS Division Chief. “Their time, all the materials, volunteers packing and all. To show appreciation for this last year what people in the field and the hospital was going through.”

Lieutenant Joy Pittman with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office said the year’s been tough on all of them, especially those on the front lines who risked their lives to keep their neighbors safe.

“Most definitely,” Pittman emphasized. “Our crews have had a rough year. Mentally, physically, so it means a lot.”

Wednesday, those men and women walked or drove through the line and enjoyed a lunch complete with pork chops, rolls, and potato salad.

Wright and a few other first responders chose to have their cake and deliver it, too. Together, they grabbed bags of food and delivered them to workers unable to make the trek to Pender Memorial Hospital.

“We can take it to the crews,” Wright explained. “They can enjoy a meal that they didn’t have to prepare. They didn’t have to worry about if they were going to get one in today depending on calls and things like that. So it just shows the gratitude, that they do see how much works being put in by people in the field and in the hospitals.”

Ruthanna Shaffer Burnett works at a long term healthcare facility, and was excited for the free meal.

“Yes, it’s very, very much appreciated,” Burnett said. “Especially on hectic days where you can barely even have time to pack your lunch.”

After helping her coworkers battle the disease, Burnett was happy to report 80 percent of their staff is now vaccinated, and facility has no active cases.

With that good news, and now a free meal, I asked Burnett how she was feeling. She responsed, “Great! Blessed!”

Burnett, Wright, and Pittman were just a few of the more than 500 Pender County healthcare workers and first responders who got to take advantage of today’s free lunch.

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