Behind the Scenes: Volunteers Pack Fresh Food Each Month Inside Redeye Music Warehouse in Hillsborough

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One Tuesday afternoon each month, a four-hour window of time offers a comprehensive view of the way many hands – and many partnerships – make light work for PORCH. 

In the airy break room of the Redeye Worldwide independent music warehouse (which owns Yep Roc Records) in Hillsborough, about 15 people work diligently to fill boxes of fresh produce, but they represent a variety of PORCH collaborations. There’s Jeep Ward, a Redeye employee and a driving force behind the company’s many philanthropic efforts. There’s Lizzie Dicker, a leader of PORCH Hillsborough. There’s Greg Christo, who is here in a volunteer capacity but, as a Weaver Street Market employee, is also a liaison, as the produce comes from Weaver Street and is purchased by PORCH at cost through the Round Up program. Debbie Horwitz and Becky Hebert, program directors for PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro, answer volunteers’ questions and tally produce amounts during the set-up process. And there are PORCH Hillsborough volunteers like Libby Searles, who – along with her husband, Larry – has worked this shift for two years and counting. “It’s so concrete and tangible. It’s direct assistance,” Libby says. “And the healthy food piece of it is really cool.”

The next morning, additional PORCH Hillsborough volunteers will arrive to transport 50 boxes (weighing 40 pounds each) to Orange County Schools; the families receiving this food have been identified as being food insecure by school social workers. Eggs and cheese from Weaver Street Market will also be added to the families’ packages. The remaining 190 or so boxes will be picked up by another generous PORCH partner, Two Men and a Truck, and brought to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro chapter’s monthly Food for Families distribution event. Milk, eggs, chicken, and nonperishable food items are also provided to program participants monthly.

Volunteers Cindy Franklin and Libby Searles.

This regular shift at Redeye was born in the fall of 2018. Lizzie was heavily involved in PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro before moving to Hillsborough and taking her passion for assisting those with food insecurities to her new town. A change in Weaver Street Market’s operations after they expanded into the Raleigh market meant that PORCH food could no longer be packed at their Hillsborough location. So Redeye, which is co-owned by Lizzie’s husband Glenn,  offered access to their space, and efforts to perfect the process began.

“Since moving to Hillsborough five-plus years ago, Redeye and Yep Roc Records have benefited from being part of a very special and welcoming community in Hillsborough,” says Glenn. “We have a passionate team who believe deeply in the company giving back to the community in which we work. PORCH’s mission connects with our team as a great way to directly help marginalized communities locally and contribute to helping make positive change. PORCH enabled us to do this in a consistent and organized manner with volunteers but also by offering our warehouse space to help with the monthly packing efforts. Our team loves being involved in an ongoing, committed way, so this is very meaningful to us.” 

Clockwise from top left: Greg Christo from Weaver Street Market; Jeep Ward from Redeye; Lizzie Dicker of PORCH Hillsborough.

As volunteers roll carts around the space to “go shopping” – filling three colorful boxes at a time with potatoes, onions,  peppers, bananas, garlic, kale, apples, tomatoes, green beans,  zucchini and other fresh produce items– volunteer Larry Bohs stacks the finished boxes on a pallet beneath life-size images of Yep Roc musicians hanging on the walls; Jeep tears down the Weaver Street boxes that have been quickly emptied of produce; and Greg moves the full pallets of packed food to the loading dock. “Greg has been an essential part of helping with our logistics here on site,” Debbie says. “He just makes the whole process go smoothly.” 

“At this point, we have it really down to a science,” says Jeep, adding that the Redeye employees packing vinyl records or answering emails a few hundred feet away really aren’t disrupted at all on PORCH days, thanks to the efficient setup and Redeye’s vast space. 

Less than four hours later, nearly five tons of fresh, healthy food are ready to be placed into the hands of PORCH families throughout Orange County. And in the coming days, the team will quickly shift gears and prepare to do it all again next month. 

Note: To learn more about monthly volunteer opportunities at Redeye, go to PORCH Hillsborough’s website. In October and November 2021, the Weaver Street Market Round Up program will benefit both PORCH Hillsborough and PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s Food for Families programs, helping our program participants receive fresh food and vegetables each month. When you shop at any of the three Weaver Street Market stores in Orange County,  simply agree to round up your total charge to the next dollar! Weaver Street Market has raised $315,000 for PORCH over the past six years thanks to this program.

The contents of each box.