By Eric Norwood Jr.
PNT staff writer
Former Sunland employees continue to feel the community love as the holiday season rolls around.
The Ministerial Alliance, a group made up of community churches, has teamed up with multiple clubs from Eastern New Mexico University to provide Thanksgiving food baskets to former employees and their families of the defunct peanut plant, which filed for bankruptcy last month.
“We’ve been sorting the food into 50 piles for the 50 families all day,” said Sarah Szymonski, president of VOICES, the student organization for the College of Education and Technology.
Szymonski, a junior from South Dakota, began collaborating with the Ministerial Alliance through Kathleen Wagner, a professor at ENMU and a close friend of Don Thomas, senior pastor at Central Christian Church. Thomas has been working diligently to help the former employees of Sunland since the shutdown of the historic peanut plant. Since then, Szymonski, who also coordinated a food drive in Portales last holiday season, and Thomas have been working together to ensure all former Sunland employees have everything they need to enjoy Thanksgiving by compiling more than 1,900 food items.
“VOICES approached us asking how they could help, and she (Sarah) just took off. They’ve brought pounds of food,” said Thomas.
Members from VOICES and a plethora of other on campus clubs stood outside of local grocery stores for more than a week earlier this month collecting food and cash donations.
“The community has really responded,” said Szymonski. “We’ve had people go buy carts full of stuff for us and walk out buying nothing for themselves. Everyone here is so nice.”
The student and community volunteers are now organizing all of the items in preparation of the food distribution on Saturday. Each family will get two to three boxes of food, a $50 gift card to SuperSave, and a box of household items including shampoo, deodorant, and paper towels. The turkeys for the food baskets will be sold to the group by Sodexo, the food services provider at ENMU.
“Sodexo isn’t marking up the prices or anything. They want to help too,” said Szymonski.
Szymonski and Thomas have been working together with their respective organizations for the same cause, but the two barely met in person on Thursday. They’ve been communicating with each other through the telephone.
“This is a gift of love,” said Thomas. “I couldn’t be more prouder of ENMU and our community. They have really stepped up.”
What: Thanksgiving Basket Distribution
When: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Nov. 30
Where: 314 South Main
Who: Must show ID or proof of employment at Sunland.