11/18/08 — Who's that on the pickle line to benefit Heart Association?

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Who's that on the pickle line to benefit Heart Association?

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 18, 2008 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Success is sweet.

It was also dill, bread and butter and thoroughly relished by the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Heart Walk team, who watched Friday morning as company president Bill Bryan and nine other supervisors took a turn working on the production line.

Bryan challenged the company's 17 team members to raise at least $13,000 for the American Heart Association, with the promise he would work a stint on the "topping line" if they met their goal.

The walkers also got to nominate their favorite supervisor to work alongside Bryan if they raised at least $1,000 each.

Bryan said he made the challenge because it was a difficult year to raise funds, and he hoped it would give the team extra incentive to reach their goal.

"I didn't know if we would make it," said Mount Olive Heart Walk co-chairman Peggy VanVoltenburg. "But (the team) stepped up to the plate."

The Mt. Olive Pickle Co. team raised $14,289. The company also donated $2,500 from the employee community fund, bringing the grand total to $16,839, nearly half of the money collected during the 2008 Mount Olive Area Heart Walk.

Which meant it was time for Bryan and the other supervisors to go to work.

They showed up for their shift at 10 a.m., decked out in hair nets and white disposable aprons with their names written across the front. The Heart Walk team stood behind them, taking photos and giving encouragement.

"It's good to get the top managers out here to really understand what (the workers) are doing," packing supervisor Eric Robinson said.

Topping line leader Brenda Pemberton gave the officials tips on proper pickle packing procedure, and even led them in stretching exercises.

Workers on the topping line make sure the jars of pickles are completely full and tamped down, but doing it the right way proved to be more difficult than it sounded.

The key is firmly pressing the pickles down into the jar and not just sticking them on top, Mrs. Pemberton said.

The supervisors still did "good for their first time," Robinson said.

Everyone had a good time, but it was also a reminder of what it's like "walking in other people's shoes," Bryan said.

Many of the volunteers had personal reasons for joining the fundraising effort.

Team captain Monica Leon, a hiring clerk with the company, started participating in the Heart Walk more than a decade ago.

She could never have known that heart disease would one day become a reality in her own life. She was diagnosed with the disease and fitted with a pacemaker when she was only 30 years old. This year, she wore a special red cap during the walk, indicating she is a heart disease survivor.

Mrs. VanVoltenburg, hiring and benefits coordinator for the company, earned $3,440 and was the top walker this year. She also had personal reasons for volunteering.

"My father died of heart disease when he was 58," she said.

Her mother died of a stroke and her husband also suffers from heart disease and stroke, she said.

The city-wide Mount Olive Area Heart Walk on Oct. 4 raised a total of $33,000. All of the money will benefit research and education efforts in North Carolina communities.

The Mt. Olive Pickle Co. has been participating in the event for nearly two decades.

"It's dear to our heart," Mrs. VanVoltenburg said.