Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 26, 2014

Date stamp mistake brings $9,000 worth of chicken to Union Mission

BLUEFIELD — Since the height of the Great Depression and for the following 83 years, the Bluefield Union Mission has been in the business of meeting the needs of families and individuals throughout the region who need a helping hand.

In 2013 alone, the mission served an average of more than 3,000 meals per month, while also distributing 752 food bags each month — a new record for the mission. While supplies were running dangerously low — especially supplies of meat — after the first two weeks in January, the Union Mission got an “unexpected blessing” as a result of a packaging misprint.

“I never panic,” Craig Hammond, executive director of the Bluefield Union Mission said. “When we get low on supplies, it just comes. The Lord sends it, and He has been sending it to us for 83 years.”

The relief came from an unexpected source this time. Hammond said that a worker at a chicken processing plant from outside of the area inadvertently hit a wrong key on the machine that imprints the “sell by date” on the package, and instead of printing the year of the expiration date as “2014,” the operator, somehow, inserted another zero in the mix, and the number that printed was “2001.”

“We were contacted by the packing plant because we are a 501 (c)(3) organization — which we are — and went there to pick up $9,000 worth of chicken,” Hammond said. “It’s all good chicken. We froze it in our walk-in freezer. We’ve been giving it out in our food bags and using it for our on-site meals.”

Hammond said that Scott Johnston has been cooking for the mission in recent weeks. “His work slows down a little during the winter, and he enjoys cooking,” Hammond said. “I sampled the chicken breasts he prepared, and it was delicious.”

Hammond said that it is typical for food donations to be down after the holidays. “This year was our lowest in recent years for canned food donations, but thankfully, our monetary donations were up at the end of the year.”

In addition, Hammond said a couple of food drives came in during the week, and an anonymous donor “dropped off money for us to buy what we needed at Food City,” Hammond said.

“One thing I know for sure, we’re going to have enough chicken to feed people for a while,” he said. “God knows when we’re going to run out, and He provides.”

Along with the growing need for food, the Union Mission provided 2,369 emergency housing nights last year, an average of 328 per month. Hammond said the mission works with motels in communities throughout its service area. “This is the biggest year for emergency housing that we’ve ever had,” Hammond said.

“We also benefit from donations through Hunters for the Hungry,” Hammond said. “This Wednesday, Scott Johnston will be making wild game burritos. We recently received a donation of some burrito flour. I think he’s making 120 wild game burritos, but we have more flour than that. Maybe Scott can make chicken burritos if we need more,” Hammond said.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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