Home Local News Richmond County seniors receive produce from Sandhills AgInnovation Center

Richmond County seniors receive produce from Sandhills AgInnovation Center

Kim Hotter, meal site manager for the East Rockingham Senior Center, loads three boxes of produce from the Sandhills AgInnovation Center to be delivered to local seniors.
William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — More than 100 seniors across Richmond County received a box of fresh produce Monday from the Sandhills AgInnovation Center.

The boxes — containing apples, sweet potatoes, other produce, as well as jelly and honey — were distributed from the East Rockingham Senior Center.

The idea to deliver the boxes came from Commissioner Justin Dawkins and his wife, Katie.

Dawkins said his wife introduced him to Davon Goodwin, the center’s manager, through her work with the N.. Alliance for Health.

“Sandhills AgInnovation Center is one of the best-kept secrets in our county,” Dawkins said, adding that it is part of the N.C. Food Hub Collaborative.

Although each hub is unique, Dawkins said they each connect producers to markets and have “played a huge role in addressing hunger throughout the state” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dawkins explained that the AgInnovation Center’s role is “multifaceted.”

“They support and expand the local farm economy by offering farmers and food businesses training, shared-use farm equipment, processing, aggregation, storage facilities, and connections to new markets,” Dawkins said, adding that it also supports communities through the FarmShare, Richmond Fresh and Farm-to-Senior Services projects.

“The Christmas produce boxes for the seniors are a great example of how honest conversations about the real needs across the county can lead to partnerships that increase the number of people that we can help,” Dawkins continued.

Aging Services typically can fund about 175 senior families for the holiday season, according to Dawkins.

Human Services Director Robby Hall said there are about 140 people who have been on the Meals on Wheels waiting list for more than a year.

The idea, Hall added, was to reach out to those who don’t qualify for other services, but have other needs.

Dawkins said “there was no way we could leave” those families out.


“When I expressed my intent to help with this need, the von Drehle family decided to split the expenses,” Dawkins, who is the manager of von Drehle’s Cordova plant, added. 

Last year, von Drehle donated 30 gift bags to be distributed to Aging Services clients.

Hall said some of the prospects that were called beforehand actually declined the offer.

“We make up for that by bringing anybody else in need into the situation,” Hall said.

There were a total of 125 boxes that went out to residents in East Rockingham, Rockingham, Ellerbe and other areas of the county.

Hall and County Manager Bryan Land helped load boxes into vehicles while Aging Services staff and volunteers made the deliveries. Former health director Tommy Jarrell took the first load of boxes.

“Food insecurity and hunger have intensified in Richmond County and across the state,” Dawkins said. “Fresh produce from Sandhills AgInnovation Center addresses the need to nourish our community with dignity.”

Dawkins added that produce boxes are just one need the food hub can help meet: “There are many more needs and opportunities in the county.”

Some of the county’s seniors are in worse predicaments than others.

One who received a box hasn’t had electric service since her home was damaged during a hurricane in 2018.

She’s been living off a generator ever since. However, the spark plug on the generator went bad before temperatures dropped below freezing early Monday morning.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she has COPD and doesn’t want to use a kerosene heater.

Anyone interesting in helping her, by monetary or service donations, is encouraged to contact Richmond County Aging Services at 910-997-4491


Previous article155th COVID-related death reported in Richmond County
Next articleCharles Randy Wilson
Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.