RALEIGH — Brothers Torry and Terrence Holt, who havent played against each other on a professional football field in years, seemed to enjoy a little friendly competition Monday as they tried to see who worked faster at stuffing sacks full of Thanksgiving dinner for charity.
Just as they once played different positions on the field, they had different strategies on the assembly line set up in a room at the warehouse of Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. Instead of competing for gridiron points, the brothers worked Monday to ensure that thousands of low-income people will have full Thanksgivings in body and spirit.
At the Food Bank, Harris Teeter and some of its vendors had assembled the makings of 2,000 ham dinners with sides. Pallets of canned green beans, corn, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce, and boxes of stuffing mix, instant potatoes and gravy needed to be stuffed into bags.
Torry, who played at N.C. State University from 1995 to 1998, and then for the St. Louis Rams, picked up a sack and headed for the beans, then scooped up a can of corn. But by the time he got to the cranberry sauce, he was joking around with one of the workers from Harris Teeter who had come to help.
While Torry was cutting up, Terrence, who was at NCSU from 1999 to 2002 and then played for the Detroit Lions and four other NFL teams, took advantage of his brothers delay. Terrence dodged the crowd, darted between the pallets and finished off another bag.
It took Torry 59 seconds to get his bag to the counting table; Terrence, 24.
I can do better, Terrence said, snagging another bag. Dodging a traffic jam at the stuffing mix, he reached a long arm over the crowd to pick off a box and kept moving. Fifteen seconds, start to finish.
This is the second year the Holts have packed Thanksgiving meals of faith for the Food Bank.
After retiring from professional sports, the Gibsonville natives returned to North Carolina and started Holt Brothers Inc., a Raleigh-based company that does construction and development and includes the Holt Foundation, to help children who have a parent with cancer.
Helping the food bank, Torry Holt said, was just one more way to try to help the community where they live.
No one goes hungry
The group finished packing the meals by early afternoon and headed off to Johnston County to deliver several dozen of them.
What had taken them and the other volunteers a short time to assemble is more than some families in the state could pull together in a month. In the 34 counties the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina serves, the agency says, more than 560,000 people struggle each day to provide enough food for their families.
This fiscal year, the Food Bank hopes to distribute from 48 to 52 million pounds of food and non-food essentials to more than 800 non-profits that serve people at risk of hunger. The agencys mission is simple: No one goes hungry in central and eastern North Carolina.
Throughout the holidays, grocery stores such as Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods run food drives and fundraising campaigns to try to help. Harris Teeter was helping the Holts as part of its Harvest Feast campaign, which invites customers to donate from $1 to $20 when they do their own grocery shopping.
The meals packed Monday will be distributed Tuesday and Wednesday to some of the Food Banks partners in Eastern North Carolina, which can get them into the hands of the families they work with throughout the year. The agency works with soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and programs that provide cooked meals for children and adults.
Annie McKoy will get some of the meals to help the families she serves through the RAM Organization, an after-school program in east Durham. Every weekday, 40 to 50 school children come to Reaching All Minds to do their homework, get tutoring, and talk with friends. They also eat what McKoy says is the last hot meal of the day many of them will get.
Her group received some of the meals the Holts helped assemble last year, and she handed them out to parents of the children she serves, along with others in the low-income neighborhood where RAM operates. Shes on the list again this year.
Several of those families said they wouldnt have had anything for Thanksgiving, McKoy said. They were happy to get it. More than happy.
A holiday meal is more than just food in the belly to a hungry child, McKoy says. Some of the kids she cares for dont talk excitedly about what theyre going to have for Thanksgiving.
Why talk about something thats not there? she said.
This year, some of those children will be able to join the conversation when they get back to school and their classmates brag about how much they ate and what they liked the best.
When everybody else is talking about ham and turkey, they can say, I had ham, too, and I had candied yams.
For them, McKoy said, It means that, Finally, Im like everybody else, and I dont have to be ashamed. I can talk about my Thanksgiving dinner, too.