For Jeff Park’s second time in two years to receive a Thanksgiving meal from a donation event outside the Pipkin Building at Tiger Lane, he brought two friends who know one another from the Veterans Administration Hospital. The men, along with another 1,000 local veterans identified by Alpha Omega Veterans Services and social services via the City of Memphis, benefitted from the distribution of bags of groceries from Kroger and hams from Smithfield Foods.
Along with Billy Fitzgerald and David Riley, Park knew what “a blessing” the food meant, so he didn’t take any chances, getting to the Liberty Bowl parking lot at 5:30 a.m. to ensure the three men were first in line.
“This food helps a lot, and saves me money I would have to spend at the groceries,” Parks said.
While he waited in the auto line, Fitzgerald and Riley walked to the rear door to the building where volunteers handed them their bags of food before both trekked home not far from the event in the brutally cold temperature.
“It is a great day to have everyone here in Memphis doing this, we are not just honoring veterans we are helping them,” said Jonathan Toms, association manager of charitable initiatives for Smithfield, to the congregation of volunteers and guests, including Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Kroger Delta Division President Scot Hendricks and Mid-South Food Bank President Estella Mayhue-Greer.
Altogether, Smithfield unloaded 42,000 pounds of product for struggling families in the Mid-South, with 2,500 hams presented to Mid-South Food Bank on Nov. 14, just in time for the Food Bank’s Partner Agencies to get them to clients in time for the holiday centered pivotally on good eating. The hams are particularly helpful for food-insecure people as it provides nutritious protein.
“We are here to help veterans, but I would remind everyone that these are the holidays when schools are closed, so this food will help many veterans who are struggling to find a way to feed their children during the break,” noted Mayhue-Greer in opening remarks to the group of volunteers and organizers.