Not ‘chicken’ to help

Published 6:58 am Monday, March 3, 2014

Perdue – Lewiston associates stand with representatives of the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life of Bertie County following Thursday’s ceremony. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Perdue – Lewiston associates stand with representatives of the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life of Bertie County following Thursday’s ceremony. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

LEWISTON – Committed to the effort….that’s the best way to describe the involvement of the staff and associates of Perdue’s Food Manufacturing plant here when it comes to the never-ending battle against cancer.

And, like most, those Perdue employees wish for the day to arrive where there are no more battles to fight, thanks to a cure for all cancers. Until that day arrives, the associates will continue their individual contributions to the cause.

On Thursday, those contributions were recognized during a ceremony held in the processing plant’s cafeteria. There, officials with the American Cancer Society (ACS) announced two major accomplishments by the Perdue – Lewiston associates – the #1 fundraising team in the South Atlantic Division (comprised of eight states) and #7 nationally.

Perdue Farms has been a major sponsor of the Relay For Life of Bertie County since 1995. The 2013 event raised $238,652 with the Perdue team generating $127,170. Perdue has offered its employees the opportunity to donate to the ACS through payroll deduction since 2009.

“This all about recognizing you, our associates, for all you do for Relay for Life,” said Jeff Stalls, Director of Operations at the Lewiston facility.

“There are very few of you sitting in here today that doesn’t have a family member, friend or neighbor that has not been touched by cancer,” Stalls noted. “There are a lot of cancer survivors out there, and the reason they are survivors is because of what you, our associates, have contributed to Relay for Life, money that allows the ACS to perform a great deal of research that leads to new drugs and treatments to fight cancer. I’m very appreciative of what you are doing in this battle and I know the ACS is appreciative as well.”

After the ceremony, Stalls told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald of his “brush” with cancer. His mother-in-law won her battle vs. the disease thanks, in part, to advances in research.

“I had one of the cancer research doctors tell me that without the money raised by events such as Relay for Life, there would be much greater loss of life due to cancer,” Stalls said. “The advances made in the areas of medicine and treatment saves lives, to include my mother-in-law.”

He added that of the 1,700 associates working at Perdue – Lewiston, roughly 1,200 are involved in the payroll deduction plan to aid ACS.

“We’d like to see that number grow,” stated Stalls. “Our goal for this year is $155,000.”

Through Relay For Life and this workplace giving, the company and its associates have donated nearly $675,000 over the years. This earns the company honors of highest per capita giving in the nation.

Several ACS representatives were on hand at Thursday’s ceremony to honor the Perdue associates for their contributions to the fight against cancer.

Artie Johnson, Volunteer Chair of Relay For Life of Bertie County, thanked the Perdue associates for their decades of support.

“This past year, Bertie Relay for Life raised over $248,000, making us number one in the nation for per capita fundraising” Johnson said. “One very special part of that is of that $248,000, you, the Perdue associates, raised $127,000. That’s outstanding and we salute you.”

Bobbie Parker, one of the founders of the very first Bertie Relay for Life in 1994 and currently a volunteer with the North Carolina Relay For Life State Task Force, recalled how Perdue became involved in the annual event.

“We recruited you to take part in our second year, and you’ve been with us ever since,” Parker said. “After we had been doing our Relay for several years and were successful with it, the ACS wanted to branch out. They started the Hertford-Gates Relay as an outgrowth of our Relay. As a result, we saw our fundraising drop off and we needed to start thinking out of the box if we were to get Bertie back up to where it belonged, as number one in the nation for fundraising in our population category.”

Parker said of the ideas shared to accomplish that feat, one of the best was “workplace giving” in what is now Perdue’s payroll deduction plan for Relay for Life.

“That first year we came here (to the Lewiston plant) and spent time talking to the associates here, we got maybe 300 to sign-up and raised a little over $38,000 through your contributions,” Parker recalled.

Last year, that number jumped to $127,000.

“We’re going to come out here this summer and raise that number even higher,” Parker said. “I’ve gotten to know the associates very well here. I’ve heard your stories of your involvement with cancer. Some of you are cancer survivors; some of you have lost loved ones to cancer. You have made this your battle, your fight against cancer. You have become our best recruiters, getting your co-workers to sign-up for the payroll deduction.

“We talk about the community taking up the fight against cancer….well, Perdue has become its own community,” Parker continued. “None of this is possible without three things – (1) your management and leadership here – Jeff Stalls; (2) Patricia Drew who makes it all happen with her work on the payroll deduction; and (3) you, the ones out front in the fight against cancer.”

Crystal Yelverton, Senior Manager of Relay For Life, echoed Parker’s sentiment.

“This is about you, it is about our partnership and all the great work you do here year after year,” Yelverton stressed. “The last 20 years with you have been amazing…raising three quarters of a million dollars. You lead by example, not just through your fundraising, but by being one of our host sites for our Cancer Prevention Study 3. You all helped us reach our goal of getting 300,000 participants enrolled across America to be a part of the largest study of lifestyles, environment and genetic changes that help prevent cancer.”

Yelverton praised Stalls and Drew for their leadership, presenting them with the South Atlantic Division and National ACS awards.

“You, all of you, have put Lewiston on the map,” she smiled. “There are several hundred relays across the nation; several thousand corporate sponsors, so when you think of overall impact this company has made….number one in the Southeast; number seven nationally… guys exemplify everything we look for in Relay for Life. You are committed; you are helping us with your dollars and your actions. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Perdue associate Delores Bazemore of Windsor, a 23-year veteran at the Lewiston facility, said she has watched friends and loved ones die of cancer.

“I started off walking (in Relay) just to walk; now it means more to me,” Bazemore said.

Another associate, Patsy (last name was not given), showed off her pink work boots….another way that Perdue aids in the fight against cancer as the vendor selling the footwear donates a part of the sale to Breast Cancer Awareness.

“This is not something that Perdue is necessarily is doing; when you guys heard of the $127,000 that came from here, it wasn’t that the company decided to give x amount of money; this represents what you, the associates, are doing and have done,” Stalls said. “One of the things that our company does believe in is giving back to our community. This (raising money for Relay) is what you’re doing to give something back to your community. My hat is off to each and every one of you.”

Also representing the ACA at Thursday’s ceremony were Susan Creed, Managing Director, Relay For Life; Shannon Ealy, Senior Director, Relay For Life; and April Smith, Relay For Life Specialist.

As a sidebar to Thursday’s event, Perdue – Lewiston was recognized as the Business of the Month by the Windsor-Bertie Chamber of Commerce.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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