Employees at the Progress Energy - Smith Energy Complex in Hamlet decided to rally behind a common cause, and lend a helping hand to a community organization that feeds hundreds of children in Richmond County every year.
The group of 48 full-time employees, along with others who assisted, raised $12,094 for Backpack Pals of Richmond County.
“That money will feed 40 children for the whole upcoming school year,” said Steve Crews, who heads up the volunteer organization.
This past school year ended with 540 children receiving backpacks of food from Backpack Pals every weekend. The group packs food for children who may not have access to meals during the weekends, when they’re out of school.
“We’re a totally volunteer organization, which means no one is paid to work here,” said Crews. “All funds go directly to our minimal operating expenses, or to buy food.”
Backpack Pals of Richmond County has been in operation for about five years, and the number of children identified as being in need of food keeps increasing.
“We added another 125 bags to our services this year,” said Crews. “This has been the toughest year yet because the number of children in need increased, food costs increased and fuel costs increased.”
Currently, the organization services all of the primary and elementary schools in the county, along with Cordova School.
“We would like to be able to add the middle schools, but just aren’t able to yet,” said Crews.
Crews said he was surprised to learn that Progress Energy employees had put together a fundraiser.
“They put together a very successful food drive for us last year, and their employees also come help us pack the bags of food — but I didn’t know they were planning this,” he said.
“I’m always impressed with the employees at this plant,” said Plant Manager Cecil Gurganus. “We have a very benevolent group here that wants to give back to the community. The company also supports a ‘day of caring’ that allows employees the opportunity to do things like go pack food for the children.”
Gurganus said that employees were enthusiastic about participating in the fundraiser.
“We divided up into teams, with the goal of each team raising enough money to feed at least two children for the year,” said Gurganus. “It gives me a real sense of pride that the people I work with care so much about others.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.