- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

AYDEN, N.C. (AP) - Shane Guthrie and Roger Haithcock consider themselves fortunate to have the opportunity to give.

On Monday morning, with temperatures just a little above freezing, the two men joined Piggly Wiggly employees to load up enough canned vegetables, turkeys, stuffing and other items to feed 200 four-member families for Thanksgiving.

Their efforts are part of a Thanksgiving giveaway started in 2010 by Guthrie and his wife, BonnieRae, to help feed families in need during the holidays. After the food was loaded Monday, they headed to Rose Hill Baptist Church, where volunteers helped separate the items to pack up bags for recipients.

“Five years ago she (BonnieRae) looked at me and said, ‘I think we should do Thanksgiving meals for the needy,’” Guthrie, a Pitt County Sheriff’s Office detective, said. “I spoke to the pastor (Haithcock, pastor of Rose Hill Baptist Church), and he was all about it. He had open arms, and he was ready to do it.”

Helping people during the holidays is an act of kindness that Guthrie said he hopes does more than just strengthen relationships in the community.

“Hopefully it will bring people to God and let them know people care and that a little kindness goes a long way,” he said. “Help thy neighbor.”

The Guthries served 60 families the first year; 200 families received the meals this year.

“I didn’t foresee it getting this big, but God does amazing things,” Guthrie said. “God put this on our hearts, and here we are.”

Funds for the food come from contributions from Pitt County employees, Vidant Medical Center staff and church members. He said Piggly Wiggly in Ayden provides a discount for shopping every year. Collections started in October, and close to $6,000 was raised to help feed those in need.

“This shows people who are less fortunate that there are people who care about them,” Guthrie said.

Haithcock said the church assists the community year-round, helping a wide spectrum of people, but black and Hispanic communities in the area seem to have a greater need.

“It seems that every year the numbers show that people are nutritionally insecure,” Haithcock said.

As volunteers worked Monday, Essie Hawkins patiently waited for much-needed food that will help her with holiday preparations for about 15 guests she expects will join her for the holidays.

Hawkins, 77, who lives in the Grifton area, said she found out about the efforts through other people.

“I’ve been down here to the church before, and they give away nice food,” she said. “It means a whole lot to me as high as stuff is in the store. “They don’t just feed the white,” she said. “They feed the blacks, too. I think it’s a wonderful thing that they are doing. They are for everybody who wants food.”

For 81-year-old Charles Hardee of Greenville, the generosity of the Guthries was a bit of good news after feeling like he might not be celebrating Thanksgiving this year.

“It’s good because we are living off Social Security,” he said. “We lost that; we spent all our savings to help my grandson.”

Hardee said he has attended the church since the late 1940s and thinks that the holiday giveaway aligns with other resources offered like the food pantry.

“This is what they did in Christ days,” Hardee said. “The rich helped the poor, and the elders were taken care of by the community.”

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Information from: The Daily Reflector, https://www.reflector.com

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