Greenville police officers were able to box up Thanksgiving dinners and distribute them to 100 families on Tuesday thanks to partnerships with community organizations.
Men and women from Greenville Police Department boxed up canned ham, instant potatoes, corn, string beans, rolls, pumpkin pie and other holiday staples at Greenville Toyota on Tuesday morning. The boxes will be provided to families through organizations like the Pitt County Council on Aging, Greenville Housing Authority and GPD’s own Cops and Barbers Program. The food was paid for by Greenville Toyota and purchased from Piggly Wiggly.
“This has been several years now in the making, I think about six or seven for me here in Greenville,” said Chief Mark Holtzman. “What is unique about this is it is a full meal in a box. When you open this up it is a ready-made ham, instant potatoes which my mom would not approve of, pumpkin pie to make up the difference and all kind of vegetables. It is an entire meal that can be put together very easily for any family.”
Holtzman and Sgt. Richie Williams said the Cops and Barbers Program, which started in 2016, is a new addition to the Thanksgiving distribution lineup and a great example of a creative way to connect with and serve the community.
“We realize that barbershops are a cornerstone of a community,” Williams said. “We realize that if we can tap into these barbershops we can reach that community. When a young man goes into a barbershop at 7 or 8 years old, he is coming back to that barbershop for 10 or 15 years. It is a good way for us to get in and have conversations.”
Holtzman said that barbers offer perspective on which families are in need, assuring that food donations go to those in need.
“They know their customers that could really benefit from this meal,” Holtzman said. “There is a lot of food given away in our community, but they are going to know which (customers) absolutely need it.”
The ease of production is necessary for some of those who are being provided the meals. Rich Zeck, director of the Council on Aging, said that 25 seniors are receiving boxes.
“What we need to focus on is the rural and isolated conditions some of these seniors live in,” Zeck said. “Many of their families live out of the area, so it is not a matter of being able to come up from Greenville to Bethel. Their families live even further away, maybe Raleigh or Charlotte. A lot of them cannot prepare a meal for themselves. It is not that they do not want to, it is physically hard for them to prepare a meal. They may have physical limitations from a stroke or an amputation, whatever the case may be.”
“There are a lot of seniors for who Thanksgiving is not a great time of year,” Zeck continued. “They do not do anything special. It is just another day of struggling to eat, struggling to have anything traditional. Just another day.”
The council serves about 380 people every day, Zeck said, with 50 on the waiting list. The boxes provided by GPD are supplementing that aid. Zeck added that of those served by the council, over 500 have an average income of $9,000. Poverty is defined at $13,000.
Holtzman said that having officers serve communities through philanthropy is special.
“I think these are the days you remember when you have done this job,” Holtzman said. “These are the memories that you make. When you can hand a box of good will, a box of food, to the community instead of some of the bad news that we are usually involved in on a day to day basis, this is the good stuff.”
Craig Goess Jr., Greenville Toyota general manager, said he feels small acts of kindness like a meal help illustrate his business’ place in the community.
“We have been here over 30 years,” Goess said. “Any little things we can do to help out our community is a no brainer for us.”