08/30/11 — Providing a little food after the storm

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Providing a little food after the storm

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 30, 2011 1:46 PM

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Joy Baker, an Ash Street resident, picks up two meals at the Salvation Army Mobile Feeding Unit while it was parked on Spence Street Monday. The unit was driven in from Jackson, Miss.

Billy Battle had not had a hot meal in two-and-a-half days. His power went off early Saturday during Hurricane Irene, and he was surviving on cold canned goods.

When he saw the Salvation Army Mobile Feeding Unit out in Goldsboro, he stopped, not really caring what it was serving, only that it was a hot meal.

The 63-year-old man was one of hundreds who got a hot meal and cold bottled water Monday from the mobile feeding unit, or canteen as the Salvation Army calls it.

The canteen arrived from Jackson, Miss., Sunday night about midnight, after a 14-hour drive.

One of its two drivers, 51-year-old Salvation Army employee Lebon Kersh, said the canteen will stay in Wayne County as long as people are hungry and without power.

"They just have to walk up to us and tell us they need something to eat," he said. "I'm a foot soldier, and I'm going to get out here in the street and pass this food out. I want to feed these people."

Kersh even flagged people down to tell them about the hot meal they could get at the canteen.

"I want them to have this food so they can have nourishment," he said.

He and another Salvation Army employee from Jackson and a volunteer from Goldsboro manned the mobile feeding unit.

The food -- chili, beef stew and chicken noodle soup -- came in huge packages and just had to be dropped into boiling water for about 15 minutes to be ready.

When it was done, the men dished it out into Styrofoam containers and handed it to those who were craving a hot meal.

Kersh said about 60 people stopped by for food during the canteen's first hour Monday on Spence Avenue between Ash and Elm streets.

"It makes me feel good," he said. "I feel like a child with a new toy at Christmas time doing this."

His reward?

The big smiles on the people's faces when they get their free meal.

Not only does Kersh serve up a hot, delicious meal, but he hears the stories the people coming for food have to tell.

One of those was 23-year-old Star Jones who lost power Saturday morning.

She was getting meals for herself, her sister, 19, and her nephew, 3.

"At first, we grilled at a family member's house, but they lost power Sunday," she said. "We've been eating cold sandwiches and stuff since."

She said a hot meal would be "really good eating."

Lavoris Stewart also grilled what she could find at home, but some of her food still went bad.

In the midst of disaster, the 43-year-old considered the Salvation Army's mobile feeding unit to be a blessing.

"Without them I don't know what we'd do. If not for this, we'd probably just be eating some cold canned goods."

Ms. Stewart's sister, Doreaka Smith, and her children, 18-year-old Danesha Smith, 10-year-old Janisea Eatmon and 6-year-old Darryl Eatmon, also came to get meals.

These are just some of the reasons why the Salvation Army does what it does, said Lt. Kenny Igleheart, commander.

"That's what the Lord wants us to do," he said. "People can't help it if their power is out. Be we can help them with hot meals. People have a need, and we're trying to fill that need."

Not only is the Salvation Army feeding those in need at its canteen, but local volunteers are preparing cold meals of sandwiches, snacks and bottled water for those who can make it to the Salvation Army at 610 N. William St.

And the Salvation Army has about 35 mobile feeding units along the East Coast and more are coming in all the time, Igleheart said.

And although the local Salvation Army building suffered damage when a huge tree fell onto one of its skylights, that repair has been put on hold until the community's needs have been met.

Anyone wanting to know where the mobile feeding unit is on any given day should call the Salvation Army at 735-4811.