ROCKY MOUNT, NC – The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region, through the generosity of the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant and the Cummins Foundation, will make life a little easier for scores of local families hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, which has obliterated jobs and destabilized homes worldwide.
Forty Club families, identified by the organization as possessing the greatest need, will receive a full-course dinner for the next five weeks. While many of these families receive unemployment benefits or other types of relief, Ron Green, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region, said the goal is to erase concerns that parents have about feeding their families and allow them to focus on other essential recurring costs.
“The families that we’re targeting with this initiative already had difficulties prior this tragic health crisis, and we’d like them to know that our community is there for them,” said Green. “We want to help club members and their families to regain some sense of normalcy.”
Importantly, Green said, The Boys & Girls Clubs want families to receive dinners that are nutritional and delicious and that encourage parents and children to gather around the table to eat, coalesce and find some solace from the calamity outside. “We wanted them to feel like dinner time was something special, so we asked the owners of the region’s top-rated restaurant, The Prime Smokehouse, to provide those meals at cost,” he said. “I knew it was a difficult request for a restaurant at this time, but they enthusiastically jumped on board.”
“Yeah, our restaurant is struggling like everybody else’s,” said Yalem Kiros, who along with her husband Ed Wiley, runs The Prime Smokehouse, “but, honestly, I was happy that Ron asked us. If we’ve learned anything over the years it’s that you don’t have to wait until times are good and money is really flowing before you make a difference. In fact, there has never been a better time to get involved. Think about all of those people who are laying their lives on the line every day to save lives. Think about all of those families who were hard-pressed to make ends meet even before this epidemic.”
According to Data USA, nearly a quarter (22.4 percent) of Rocky Mount’s 55,000 residents live below the poverty line, compared with 13 percent nationally. U.S. Labor statistics put Rocky Mount’s jobless rate at 5 percent – vs. 3.8 percent nationally – before the current crisis.
“There are so many more families in need, but Cummins’ generosity has allowed us to get the ball rolling. It is our hope that others will join in and allow us to target many more in need,” said Boys & Girls Clubs Board President, Todd Hinson.
John Judd, Plant Manager of Cummins, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has now reached every corner of the globe. It is unchartered territory for all of us, times like these are when we need to stay connected and support each other the most.
As soon as this pandemic reached our community, it was our employees that insisted we look beyond the plant and reach out to our community partner the Boys & Girls Clubs to see how we could assist.”
During these tough times, when everyone, especially those in the restaurant business, are hurting, neighbors like The Prime Smokehouse of Rocky Mount are stepping up. The award-winning restaurant is delivering at cost 40 meals, which the Boys & Girls Clubs will distribute to families over the next five weeks. The Prime Smokehouse will make no profits on its food selections.
“We all love treating ourselves at The Prime Smokehouse for a meal, but to be able to bring their delicious food to the families that we serve, especially as we all struggle with all that is happening, is such a blessing,” says Green. “They say we’re all in this together, but it’s especially meaningful with a local small business like Prime stepping up like this.”
The Prime Smokehouse and its sister operation, NABS Deli and Coffee Shop, continue to operate for take-out and pick-up business. Traffic is much slower than normal, says co-owner and head chef Ed Wiley, but they remain open, for the sake of employees and the community, which has allowed him and his staff to see the best in his customers.
“We know how hard it is when you are going through difficult times,” says Wiley. “What is not lost on us and we endure this severe slowdown is that others are perhaps struggling even more. We hope that we can do for the Rocky Mount community what we do best: serve the kind of food that will nourish them as much as it makes them smile.”
The menu will include a range of classic entrees, such as roast turkey and spaghetti and meatballs, as well as some items that have helped put the Prime Smokehouse on the culinary map, such as jambalaya and lasagna.
“We’re all a little nervous, and even a little scared by what is going on,” Wiley says. “But I cannot tell you how many words of encouragement, how many dedicated members of the community have exhibited such strength and heart in the face of all this. We’re seeing the best in people, which reminds us why Rocky Mount is such a special place.”
Others wising to contribute to The Boys & Girls Clubs Healthy Meals Initiative should contact the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region at 252-977-9924.