Docuementary Blog #24 – Monthly food program with Susie Lacefield

Tuesday morning came quickly and Kaleb and I were excited about what the day had in store.  We were heading to Susie Lacfield's place called "The Food Place" where she distributes food and commodities and, as we learned, furniture to those in need in Booneville once a month.  Fortunately we happened to be in town when this occurred.  Ok, it wasn't fortunate.  I planned the trip to make certain we were able to film this process.  Susie is the wife of Pastor Jerry Lacefield and as you can imagine their work is like many of the others in the area.... mission work.  Susie receives donations from a variety of organizations and people to distribute to the people of Booneville.  She has two buildings that house all of her items.  The first is a converted motel that houses a lot of the food getting distributed and still serves as a hotel for the missionaries coming to the area (this is where the people from North Carolina stayed while in town distributing furniture).  Thee second is the old jail with houses loads and loads of clothing.  Apparently there are some really nice items there but I never went into the two-story jailhouse to see for myself but had heard from several people including the people from North Carolina so I will have to take their word for it. Back that "The Food Place" there is an area of the property where Susie keeps clothes available for people to just come and take or sort through.  She also allows people to bring their old clothes and exchange them for other items within those boxes.  The boxes are underneath a patio type structure and are available 24/7 for people to come and rummage through.

This is the area in Booneville known as "The Food Place." It also serves as a motel for missionaries traveling to the area.

So we arrived at the location about four hours early to conduct our interview with Susie, have lunch with her and her volunteers and get the food boxes put together and ready for distribution.  We wanted to talk with her about the programs and assistance she offers, how she got her start and how important this food program means to the people of Booneville.  Susie works directly with God's Pantry (which is a program of Feeding America) in Lexington, KY and has to drive up to Lexington to get the food and bring it back to Booneville to distribute it.  As you can imagine, it's a challenge to drive 1.5 hours each way to get whatever food is available and pass it out to the people of Booneville.  Here she feeds whoever she can with whatever she gets.  It's also interesting for me to see the differences between Meals on Wheels and Feeding America since I have seen Meals on Wheels in action in Los Angeles, San Francisco. Marin County and Orlando thus far and this is my first exposure to Feeding America programs.  We conducted our interview with Susie and then went to her home to have lunch.  Waiting for us at Susie's home were several people who work directly with her as volunteers.  It was a great spread of homemade delights such as chicken salad, corn casserole, potatoes, croissants and tea.  It was all very tasty and Kaleb seemed to enjoy it a little more than me since I don't anything with mayonnaise and almost everything there had mayo in it.  I stuck with potatoes and croissants.   One of the women also brought a great chocolate cake so I made up for the lack of lunch food with dessert! 🙂

Susie Lacefield - Legally blind she runs the food distribution with the help of God's Pantry and Feeding America.

After lunch we ventured back to "The Food Place" and started getting the boxes put together for distribution.  Susie has a system where people have to fill out forms to get their food.  I know it's something she has to do since she receives federal commodities and has to keep track of all food going in and out of her organization.  People get one box of food and anything else Susie has around her place to help these people out with their food or clothing needs.  But before all that can happen we have to food in boxes.  We have about 1.5 hours to all the boxes together.  I think there something like 60+ boxes of food that had to be assembled that day so we all took a product and using Susie's checklist we went through and began loading boxes with the canned food for the people of Booneville.  The boxes consisted of the following items:
  • Box of cereal
  • Bag of beans (Pinto,  I recall)
  • Canned sweet or creamed corn (2)
  • Crackers
  • Peanut Butter
  • Potatoes (Bag of potatoes)
  • Canned Green Beans (2)
  • Canned Cranberry Sauce (1)
  • And a choice of meat ("Cooking Meat" - that's what they called it - or Canned Tuna Fish)
The most interesting part of the food boxes that day was the "Floor Cabbage."  When we arrived at this location on Saturday to film the furniture distribution I  noticed some plastic palettes (the kind you see bread being stored in) sitting on the floor.  These palettes were filled with heads of cabbage and I wondered when those would be getting to people and today I learned they would be going in the food boxes.  Susie asked me and the other volunteers (one of which was Melanie Thomas who I had met on our first day and had seen several times throughout our stay) to put the cabbage in the boxes.  When I went to grab the first head of cabbage I placed my hand underneath the head to pick it up.  When I did I felt this grotesque, gelatinous goo seeping onto my hand.  It was disgusting!  It was clearly the head of cabbage beginning to decay and the pieces of cabbage were turning into liquid.  It smelled worse that anything I could imagine.  But we all put them in the boxes because these people can still use this cabbage and just cut off the bad end.  I hated having to see people eating this way but that's the reality of hunger in America - you get what you can and make the most of it.  Furthermore, we all know canned vegetables have ZERO nutritional value with the exception of canned tomatoes but canned corn, green beans and cranberry sauce have little to no nutritional value and are loaded with sodium but it's what they have to eat and what they are getting that day for better or worse.

This was shot before the food distribution took place. Most of the food you see here was given away a few hours later.

Now, I didn't take any photos that day outside of the ones you see here.  The area was completely cramped with food, boxes and people as well as the volunteers helping to take the food out the vehicles of the people receiving the items.  I wanted to stay out of the way and just observe that day.  It is an incredibly small area so I would have been in way and I just enjoyed talking with the people about the program and what it means to them.  We did get some good interviews and video of the process so that will be included in the final project.  All in all, I think it was a good day for everyone involved.

One of Susie's volunteers, Melanie Thomas

OBSERVATION Susie Lacefield is a nice woman and completely different from Cleda Turner.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying one is better, more effective than the other.  They are both trying to do good things for the people of Booneville and have completely different approaches.  Susie is more of a micro-manager who seems completely disorganized and frazzled at times while Cleda is more laid back and seems more about the personal relationship and connecting with people.  Susie cannot operate without her list (again, THE LIST) and likes to boss people around and yell at them including her volunteers.  It comes across that everything could go completely wrong at any given moment.  But that's what makes this world great.  We are all different people with different approaches and styles.  I have experienced many people who operate in the same manner as Susie and are quite effective - they just get everyone else around them freaking out and running around in a crazy manner but it all works out in the end.  I just hope these two women can continue to make progress and help the people of Booneville while inspiring others to make a difference. SIDE STORY The distribution starts at 3:00pm and lasts for about an hour or until when everyone has their food boxes.  Around 2:20pm a woman pulls up in her car to drop off clothes in the clothes boxes and look for new clothes for her children.  She is between 25-30 years old.  About 2:30pm one of the volunteers comes out and tells her she is going to have to move her car.  The woman acknowledges this and says she'll be done shortly.  About five minutes later Susie Lacefiled comes out and yells at the woman to move her car.  The woman, now in tears, comes over to me and starts talking to me wondering why people are yelling at her.  She said, "All I am trying to do is drop off some nice clothes my children have grown out of and get some new ones for them.  Don't they want these nice clothes for kids?"  Again, this was all said while she was in tears because she had been yelled at for trying to do something nice and take advantage of the generosity of free clothes.  So the woman wiped away her tears and went back to looking through the boxes of clothes.  10 minutes later at 2:45pm another volunteer (not Melanie but another woman whose name escapes me at the moment) came out and yelled at this woman to move her car again (keep in mind the food distribution doesn't start for another 15 minutes and there are no other vehicles trying to get into that parking area).  At that point I had to say something.  I turned to volunteer and asked, "Don't you want people coming here and taking advantage of the clothes while dropping off come really nice children's clothing for others to use?  Why do you have to keep yelling at her?"  The volunteer turned to me and said, "Well, I have told her three times to move her car.  {The volunteer then came closer to me and in a loud whisper said) Yeah, but she's on drugs!"  It was said like a third grade student telling the teacher on a fellow student for cheating on a test or not using the right color crayon in a art assignment.  It was completely silly. Now, I don't know if the woman dropping off clothes was on drugs.  At times she seemed to talk fast but that could be contributed to the tears and emotions but I don't know about the drugs thing.  Needless to say, when the volunteer said this I was appalled!  Aren't they supposed to be Christians helping their fellow man and not judging?  The woman exchanging clothes left long before any other cars we directed into the parking area and had done her business.  But she, along with me, were left with a lasting impression of "Christians" judging and condemning people.  I guess this begs the question, "Wouldn't this world be a better place if we all stopped judging people and just tried to live our lives while helping and caring for our fellow man?  It's up to us to make changes and make this world a better place. More tomorrow. Seth

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  1. Cleda says:

    I am so sorry you had to witness, someone being short with one of our people in need, that needs Love from Us not judgement,

    Please pray for all of us here in O.C. to be loving and not judgmental.

    • Seth Hancock says:

      If I were a praying man Cleda, I would pray that the whole world would stop judging and not just Owsley County. Keep doing what you’re doing and hopefully Susie will keep doing her thing and lead by a positive example for all to see. Little things like that go a long, long way.

  2. Melanie Thomas says:

    I read your blogs every day, I think they’re all great, keep on writing. I think you’re a great person also, sorry you had to see some of the things you did see while you were here.

    • Seth Hancock says:

      Thanks, Mel. Those things happen all over the country regardless of where people live but when it’s a small town with problems that are so pronounced it is more easily magnified and noticed. It would just be nice to see all of us, including myself, stop judging people and be accepting of others, their situations and problems with a helpful ear and mind. Keep reading and hopefully I will see you again.

      • Melanie says:

        Yes, I know where you’re coming from, I’ve been there myself. Hope we can see each other again too, it would be great.

  3. Stormy says:

    I agree with you there needs to be more understanding that things
    are not always as they seem . I have gone to the food place several
    times and heard the volunteers yelling at people to move their
    cars or they would call the police .
    I also think that Sussie needs to get rid of that damn list .
    It gets on my nerves too .