By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Marnee Stratton stood at the beginning of a line, placing bars of soap in empty boxes that were passed to her Thursday morning.
Stratton was part of a volunteer assembly line that packed the boxes with household essentials to distribute to the 100 laid-off workers from the Sunland peanut plant and their families.
The 25-year-old company shut its doors for good, citing the effects of a voluntary product recall and government-enforced shutdown after its products were tied to a national salmonella outbreak last fall.
Stratton and a group of about 15 that included grandmothers, families and church members.
The effort is part of a ministerial alliance that involves Stratton’s church, Central Christian, and other area churches who have collected hundreds of toiletries and other essential needs for the families.
“I just grieved for them. I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” said Stratton, who knows one of the laid-off workers from her church. “This is to show God’s love.”
Area churches partnered with United Way of Eastern New Mexico on the effort, according to Central Christian Senior Pastor Don Thomas.
“We can’t fix all your problems, but we want to help out as much as we can,” Thomas said.
Each church was responsible for collecting items, which included paper goods, laundry detergent and deodorant among other essentials.
Last week, the group raised funds to purchase gift and gas cards for employees. During the holiday season, the group will orchestrate a food drive.
Thomas felt though that right now, the workers’ priorities include paying bills and feeding their families.
“If we can give them household things, then maybe that will allow them to keep their money for food and car payments that they need that we can’t pay for,” Thomas said.
He estimates each of the 100 boxes contain $40 to $50 worth of products.
“Those are staple items that won’t expire. Everyone needs toilet paper, everyone needs shampoo,” he added.
Lauren Bagwell, 14, said helping with the donations Thursday made her feel better about the situation because she’s doing her part to address an issue that she says affects the entire community
“I feel as though the Sunland shutdown is going to affect us all,” Bagwell said.
Former Sunland employee Jim Lucero also gave a hand Thursday and said his former co-workers would be appreciative of what the community is doing.
“I’m sure they’re going to be grateful. Money is tight,” said Lucero. “They’re going to be overwhelmed.”
Distribution of the products is from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Portales Home Medical Equipment on Main Avenue. Employees will have to show ID or proof that they were an employee of Sunland.