CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A long parade of cars lined up early in the Union Mission lot in Kanawha City Wednesday morning, but this was a parade of need in some rough times.
Union Mission, West Virginia's largest food distributor, partnered with the "Americans Feeding Americans" campaign of the national Feed the Children group to hand out food and personal items from two tractor-trailers to more than 600 pre-screened area families.
The trucks were bankrolled with the aid of Huntington high school basketball star native O.J. Mayo, who now plays with the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA, and Randy Moss, a Rand native and star wide receiver with the NFL's New England Patriots.
Moss couldn't make it for the distribution, but Mayo stood in line with a host of volunteers and helped distribute about 600 boxes of food and supplies. Two other trailers were unloaded Tuesday in Huntington.
"I took a couple days off to do this and come out here and support this event. All the support we've had the past couple days has been great," said Mayo, who also helped hand out aid boxes in Huntington. With "the little success" he's had in recent years, "it definitely came from somewhere and I have the opportunity to give back," he said.
The Union Mission screened for the neediest of the families it serves, said Andrew Beckner, the group's director of development, as lines of vehicles threaded through numerous volunteers and stacks of boxes. "The folks will get a 20-pound box of food, and a 10-pound box of personal care items and another 10-pound box of Avon products."
T.J. Plumley of Mud River in Lincoln County was in line, his 7-month-old child in his car. He has been laid off for three months now from work as a bulldozer and excavator operator and welcomed the aid.
"It's hard to find any work. Everybody ain't got nothing. Nobody's been making any contracts where you can go out and do anything. Everybody's laying everybody off," he said. "[It'll] give us a lot of food, help us out through the month."
Debbie Thomas, an unemployed pastor, said that even in such tough times "there's still some people who refuse to help. But this is a good thing that they're doing."
Morgan Loomis from Feed the Children (feedthechildren.org) was on hand and explained the cost of the operation and aim of the campaign.
"To sponsor a truck is $7,200, but the value of the products is usually somewhere in the range of $35,000 to 45,000 of what's actually being given away. We've fed over 105,000 people to date. We're hoping to double that number by the end of he year.
"We've been trying to hit major cities with bigger distributions, but also kind of focus on the smaller ones that have really been hit by the economic downturn. We're kind of all over the place right now. There's such a need everywhere."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.