Those in need turn out to get food at civic center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Six months ago, Martha Arbaiza had a job at a local restaurant. When it closed, she found another. But it closed, too. When she received a letter saying she was eligible to receive food Thursday during a distribution, she was thankful.
“Before I didn’t need to come here, but now I do,” she said.
Arbaiza and more than 300 others braved the rain, lined up at the Salisbury Civic Center, some as early as 3:30 a.m., to receive food from the Altrusa Club and Salisbury Parks and Recreation’s food distribution.
“I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “Too many people need it.”
The China Grove resident said she’d been out of work since April. She’s looked for jobs, but has found nothing.
Like Arbaiza, Christine Litaker’s husband had a job as a plumber. The company shut down and it took him nine months to find a job. Three months later he was looking for another job.
The Litakers, of Salisbury, have a family of four to feed.
“It’s a blessing,” she said.
Dawn Blanchard is a single mother raising a 10-year-old son. She had cancer, but is now in remission. Blanchard underwent radiation, which weaken her bones and caused her other health issues. She stood in line for hours gaining support from a wheeled-cart.
She receives government assistance, but says the food runs out before the end of the month.
“It helps people out,” she said of the food.
Joshua Hartman is on social security disability and went to the distribution at 6 a.m. with his grandmother, who waited with him.
“It’s a good thing. Everybody needs help sometime in their life,” Hartman said.
Earline Felts of Salisbury is on a fixed income. She brought a friend to also receive some food as well.
“Every little bit helps,” she said.
Barbara Jackson was in line to receive food and said she would likely give some food away to help someone else.
“I thank God who opened the door. If it wasn’t for Him we wouldn’t receive it,” Jackson said.
She said it proves that “you can’t take things for granted.”
She was thankful of the volunteers also.
“They don’t have to take out the time to give to us,” Jackson said.
Sonnie Miller is one of those volunteers. He is a retired paramedic who loves people.
“I love doing things for others,” he said.
There was a time when others had to do for Miller. He’s had nine heart attacks, five stints put in and 21 surgeries. In 1968, a then 19-year-old Miller was shot in the heart. He spent months in the hospital and lost 100 pounds.
He is happy when others are happy.
“I have to get my blessing through another way. That’s my joy to be retired and help. What else should I do?” he said.
Melissa Summers and much of her family volunteer every time there is a food distribution. She began volunteering 13 years ago when she was in her teens.
“There are plenty of families who need this, especially since the recession. Most of the people are outside at 7:30,” she said.
She began volunteering because her grandmothers, cousins and aunts all volunteered.
“It brightens up my day,” she said.
Although the line was long, stopping at the entrance along the street, Summers said it’s been longer.
She recalled a time when the line stretched from the back door of the civic center to beyond Captain D’s on the corner of Innes Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
There were also 12 inmates from Davidson Correctional Center who were at the civic center all day Wednesday unloading three trucks and stacking boxes. The men returned Thursday to help.
Some of the guys are selected and others request to help, said Corrections Officer Paul Grant.
There were also 16 students from North Rowan High School ROTC who also do a lot of the heavy lifting. The students return every year to help.
Food for the distribution is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There was $68,214 worth of food given away.
“I feel very good about being able to do this, especially with these economic times,” said club member Sandy Reitz.
Unemployment in Rowan County has been about 13 percent.
The food is given out to food stamp recipients and families who meet certain income guidelines. The USDA contracts with the Department of Social Services and the food is delivered for distribution by the Altrusa Club, which has handled the task for 15 years.
Altrusa is a service organization for women.