Successful food donation program shuts down for summer

A notice on the Emerald Isle Facebook page alerts the public to a decision to not operate the volunteer A Second Helping food collection this summer due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Contributed graphic)

EMERALD ISLE — A Second Helping, an all-volunteer group that for about five years accepted food donations from departing vacationers in order to help feed needy area residents, will not operate this summer because of concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Christine Winslow of Cape Carteret, one of the core team members of the organization, founded by George Gardner of Swansboro, said Friday the team hated not to run the operation this year.

“We all talked about it, and we decided … we just wouldn’t collect any food or monetary donations this year,” however, she said.

Neither the town nor state forced the decision or suggested it, she added.

“We collect the food from out-of-town people as they leave town on Saturdays and Sundays,” she said. “Most of our (20) volunteers are in the ‘senior’ age group.”

The elderly are considered most vulnerable to serious illness from the virus, she added, and the team was concerned about exposing them.

“I work in the medical field and I was very concerned,” Ms. Winslow said.

Food-handling in particular has been worrisome to many people during the pandemic.

Ms. Winslow said she and others, including Linda McGowan and Val Johnson, both of Emerald Isle, hope A Second Helping can return next year to the location across from Bert’s Surf Shop at the corner of Islander Drive and Highway 58, on property owned by Paxon Holz, who has also been a volunteer.

“She has been great, and it’s a perfect site,” convenient for departing vacationers on the way to the high-rise bridge to the mainland, Ms. Winslow said. People could also drop off food at the Stir It Up, a coffee shop in Emerald Isle.

“A lot of vacationers stop for coffee on the way out of town, so that has been great, too,” Ms. Winslow said.

When A Second Helping started – Mr. Gardner, of Swansboro United Methodist Church thought of it and modeled it after a similar successful program in Holden Beach – it operated Saturday mornings, and Mr. Gardner was the only volunteer.

It grew fast, pushed by the town and rental agencies, however.

Mr. Gardner, who has stepped away from day-to-day responsibilities of the group, was not available for comment, but Ms. Winslow said he is still involved.

Two years ago, the group added a Sunday morning donation slot, and it has been just as successful.

The program typically runs each weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Last year, the group took in more than 2,000 grocery bags full of food, Ms. Winslow said.

“The town has been very supportive and so have the visitors and the local people,” she said. “A lot of local people, when they went grocery shopping, would buy extra things and drop them off with us.”

The food has gone to The Storehouse, a pantry in Morehead City at 3114 Bridges St., the site of the former Mrs. Willis’ Restaurant.

“It was very well received, and the pantry did a great job,” Ms. Winslow said. “(They) knew their clientele very well, knew which ones had a kitchen and could handle something like a whole chicken” and which ones needed prepared food.

Ms. Winslow said the team hated to shut down the operation this year when so many people are in need, but the health concerns overwhelmed the desire to keep operating “in this strange and uncertain time.”

She urged those who want to help feed the needy to make monetary or food donations to a pantry of their choice.

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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