12/03/06 — First goal earns Pate spot on line

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First goal earns Pate spot on line

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 3, 2006 2:01 AM

State Rep. Louis Pate probably didn't quite pack a peck of pickles at the Mt. Olive Pickle plant Friday night, but he definitely pounded plenty into place.

With his shift set to start at 5:30 p.m., Pate arrived on time and ready to go.

It was something, he said earlier in the week, that he was looking forward to.

But walking out onto the floor, it was clear it wasn't going to be a matter of will, it was going to be a question of whether Pate could keep up with the rest of the production line.

Handed a small rubber mallet, his job was to make sure the gallon jars of whole sours were full -- but not too full -- before they traveled on down the assembly line to be capped.

As the machine in front of him dropped pickles into the jars and sent them his direction, topper Pate readied himself for work.

Those jars that came toward him with too few pickles, he filled from the extras laying on the conveyor belt. Those jars that came toward him with too many pickles, he emptied onto the conveyor belt. Those with just the right amount, he used his rubber mallet to push them under the lip of the jar.

"It's hard work," Pate said. "I worked up a sweat in a hurry."

Even after doing sets of finger exercises this week, Pate said he was caught by surprise at the nimbleness the job required.

"You have to keep your knuckles flexible and loose," he said. "I wasn't aware I'd be using a hammer. I thought I'd just go to work with my bare hands. Using the hammer I probably injured a few pickles.

"I probably made relish out of a few of them."

But plant manager Randy Sweigart said Pate performed admirably -- for all of the 15 minutes he was on the floor.

"He did a good job. He didn't slow us down. He was a quick learner," Sweigart said. "Maria said he was very serious about it."

And, Pate said, he was. He didn't want to let the pickle company -- or the regular line workers -- down.

"My hat's off to these women. Anytime you eat a pickle you should think about where it came from," he said. "I really enjoyed it. This was for
a project that's well worth it."

Pate's pickle packing at Mt. Olive Pickle Co. was the first of five rewards in the United Way of Wayne County's "Bring It On" campaign. The campaign, which was begun after United Way officers discovered they were running short of their 2006 goal, is a challenge to the community.

For each level reached -- 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent -- a local celebrity will perform a task.

Pate packing pickles was the 60 percent reward. Goldsboro Mayor Al King serving coffee at Starbucks is the 70 percent reward. Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders will serve doughnuts at Krispy Kreme at 80 percent. Cincinnati Reds manager and Goldsboro resident Jerry Narron will lead a storyhour at the Wayne County Public Library in Goldsboro at 90 percent. And at 100 percent, local lawyer and United Way campaign chairman Geoff Hulse will jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet.

The goal is $1.44 million. Right now, the United Way is about 65 percent of the way there with $955,388 in hand.

United Way donations can be dropped off at the United Way office on William Street or at one of several locations in Wayne County -- The Goldsboro News-Argus, the Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce or the RBC Centura Bank on Spence Avenue.

They can also be mailed to the United Way office, 308 N. William St., Goldsboro, N.C. 27530.