It was a Saturday night and I was at a charity masquerade party in the heart of ITB (more on this later), when I received the following text from my friend, Richard Averitte.
“So my company Blue Sky Partner Management is going down to Lumberton to prepare meals. Also going to collect items for the flood victims. Can you help promote it?”
“Sure. Glad to help. Let’s chat tomorrow. I’m currently at a party in the Freemason Lodge and I think I’m about to get sacrificed or initiated into the Illuminati. Either way it’s a win/win.”
Not only is Richard the Recruiting Director for Blue Sky Partner Management, a Raleigh company that manages Smithfield’s Chicken ’N Bar-B-Q corporate stores and some of their franchise locations, he’s also an all-around great guy. So when Richard asked for help, I was more than willing to put my growing startup on hold for whatever he needed.
I learned more about the plans after talking with Richard on Sunday. The goal was simple, feed as many people as possible and deliver much needed donations to Lumberton. The idea started with Mandy Carpenter, a registered nurse at the hospital in Lumberton, who is a former employee of Blue Sky CEO David Harris. “She called Mr. Harris to ask if he could donate a few meals because she wanted to do something for those affected by the flood. We had wanted to do something anyway and we saw this as our opportunity,” said Averitte.
While many parts of the state were devastated by Hurricane Matthew, Lumberton and its citizens mean a lot to Blue Sky. “This area holds a special place in our heart in that the Lumberton opening was a major chapter in the Smithfield’s Chicken ’N Bar-B-Q history. Personally, Lumberton is a special place to me, as I lived in neighboring Red Springs from age 10-18 and have many fond memories of Lumberton,” said Averitte.
The idea of a few lunches being served turned into a much bigger event when CEO David Harris got involved. He wanted Blue Sky to cover everything and reached out to a few vendors to see what they could contribute. Harris received donations from US Foods, Meat Products Inc, Coca-Cola, and Franklin Bread Company. Harris brought two large cookers, and actually purchased a third on site after one stopped working, and seven colleagues from Blue Sky to help cook and serve lunch to the Lumberton community.
In addition to lunch, Blue Sky sought out donations of much needed supplies. “Since we were going down there, I saw this an opportunity to bring supplies. I asked my contact in Lumberton to give me a list of the most needed items. I knew many of my Raleigh neighbors wanted to help so I just tried to put the word out,” said Averitte.
That’s when Richard reached out to see if I could help spread the word. On Monday, I shared a simple Facebook post that informed people of the need for donations. I also asked my Mom to reach out to her ITB garden club and neighbors. Less than 48 hours later the donations poured in.
From local businesses like Person Street Pharmacy, who ordered toiletries and cleaning supplies, to Galatea Boutique, whose customers had dropped off canned goods, water, and other items, the support was amazing.
On Thursday, we set off for Lumberton with two Tahoes worth of supplies. (Side note: one completely full Tahoe is equal to two mid-sized SUVs.) We arrived and unloaded the donated supplies. Within 45 minutes almost everything was gone.
The group from Blue Sky spent the next four hours cooking and serving the following menu:
600 hot dogs
30 pounds of chili
300 chicken breasts
50 pounds of flounder
125 pounds of baked beans
125 pounds of corn
500 cases of water
1,200 cans of soda
By around 3:00 pm there wasn’t an ounce of food left. Having fed hundreds of Lumberton residents, the group from Blue Sky cleaned up the area, packed up their trucks, and headed home.
While there’s obviously still more work to be done, it was nice to have an opportunity to actually go to an area in need and provide help. There are still plenty of ways to donate:
Also, I’m working on another super ITB opportunity to get involved in the relief efforts. I’ll share more details soon.
Special thanks to the following, who were able to donate on short notice:
Blue Sky Partner Management
Parlor Blow Dry Bar
Person Street Pharmacy
Various other individuals