Religious Community Services in New Bern is looking to expand its efforts to bring free food and clothing to residents in some of the most economically challenged areas of Craven, Jones and Pamlico counties.
Now in its second year of service, Operation Outpost consists of teams of RCS volunteers and staff members who bring food, clothing and hygiene items to rural populations in the nonprofit’s tri-county coverage area.
Each Wednesday, the team sets up from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at one of four designated locations — two in Havelock, one in Alliance and a fourth in Bridgeton. The team hands out boxes filled with food items such as cabbage, apples, sweet potatoes, bread, soda, peanut butter and canned vegetables. Tables with clothing, shoes and other items are also set up for residents to choose from.
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RCS Executive Director Zeb Hough said the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the catalysts for the Operation Outpost initiative.
“COVID taught us that we needed to take our services to people instead of expecting people to come to our services,” Hough said. “As we’ve gone out and experienced these parts of the community, Harlowe, Antioch out in Bridgeton, Alliance…we’re seeing poverty that we couldn’t even have imagined and we’ve been doing this work for 40 years as an organization.”
The current monthly Operation Outpost schedule is:
1st Wednesday: Havelock Pregnancy Center, 392 E Main St, Suite H, Havelock
2nd Wednesday: Harlowe Community Center, 125 Godette School Rd., Havelock
3rd Wednesday: 1st Choice Pregnancy Resources of Pamlico, 13808 NC Hwy. 55, Alliance
4th Wednesday: Rowe’s Quality Cars, 1192 US-17, Bridgeton
During a March 23 Operation Outpost food pickup in Bridgeton, Lisa Cleveland loaded bags of clothes into her truck and chatted with RCS volunteers. Cleveland, who lives off of Pine St. beside Rowe’s Quality Cars, said she had never heard of RCS or their services before seeing their truck parked in front of the dealership.
“I think it’s actually considerate and thoughtful what they’re doing. Just to do it spontaneously without a reason like a disaster or something is really good. I’m pretty grateful,” Cleveland said.
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Helping load food boxes into vehicles waiting in line in the parking lot, RCS Program Manager Krishanda Royal-Jones said Operation Outpost would hopefully be expanding into other communities in 2022.
“We’re trying to reach out to those areas that are kind of forgotten, so we can bring the food to them,” Royal-Jones said. “They seem to be very pleased, very grateful. Especially with the prices of food going up it’s always good to have extra.”
According to RCS staff member Robert Silva. Operation Outpost gives away 75-80 boxes at each pickup site.
“Last week we did 99 boxes in Alliance. I don’t know if that’s attributed to the change in the warmer weather but the numbers drop off in December through February because of the darkness and the cold. If things start picking up we’ll get more,” Silva said.
Bridgeton resident Chris Jones said he was grateful for RCS’s outreach efforts.
“I’m gonna tell ya, they’re good people. This is about my third or fourth time picking up the food boxes and I’m just thankful. You see a lot of folks driving up that you’d never see asking for a handout, but here we are,” Jones said.
RCS Front Office Coordinator Judy Myrick said Operation Outpost has also been able to reach members of local immigrant communities who may have been reluctant to seek RCS’s services.
“I know one of my first times going out with Outpost out in Bridgeton we had a whole community that we had to go to them. They wouldn’t come pick up (at RCS) because they were afraid that it might be somebody who wanted to report them,” Myrick said.
How to ask for assistance and donate
Residents who live in outlying areas and need help getting food, clothing, or hygiene items can contact the RCS front desk at 252-633-2767 to discuss their needs and find out about the nearest location drop in their area.
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RCS is in need of the following items to help fill out their distribution boxes. Items can be brought to the RCS warehouse on Guion Street and delivered Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m-2 p.m.
jelly (in plastic jars)
tomato sauce (in cans)
hygiene items (deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, razors, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush, toothpaste, fingernail clippers, lotion, etc.)
gently used (clean) clothes and/or new clothing for adults and children.
This article originally appeared on Sun Journal: Operation Outpost brings food, clothing to ‘forgotten’ communities