Residents receive free milk; effort continues Saturdays this month


Milk: It does a body good.

On Saturday, people drove through the parking lot at Seymour Christian Church to have gallons of Prairie Farms 2% milk placed in their vehicle as part of a free giveaway.

The event was supposed to run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it ended two hours early because all 4,320 gallons that were loaded in crates inside a refrigerated semitrailer had been handed out.

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If you didn’t make it to the event, don’t worry. The effort continues at the same time each Saturday this month around Jackson County.

The next giveaway starts at 9 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot at First Baptist Church, 505 Community Drive, Seymour, and also will take place June 20 at Reddington Christian Church, 10516 N. U.S. 31, Reddington, and Freetown Church of Christ, 7077 N. State Road 135, Freetown, and June 27 at The Point, 311 Myers St., Seymour.

During each giveaway, social distancing is observed. People are asked to drive up to the drop-off site and stay in their vehicle. There are no forms to fill out or donation restrictions.

Rick Followell is the manager of Prairie Farms Dairy in Seymour and also is a member of Seymour Christian Church. When he was told about Prairie Farms working in cooperation with the American Dairy Association and U.S. Department of Agriculture, he called the church’s associate pastor, Dan Weaver, to see about setting up local giveaways.

“I said, ‘Dan, we need to get rid of this milk. We can do it every week if you want to do it,’” Followell said.

Pastor Andy Schroeder then talked to leaders of other local churches and got them on board.

“We hit that phone call just right,” Followell said. “He talked to them, they were all interested, we’re going to go with it and it’s going to be a great, great thing for our community.”

A few weeks ago, news circulated about farmers dumping milk down drains, which Followell said was due to restaurants across the United States closing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and not buying milk, butter and sour cream.

“That was huge for the farmers. A lot of that product goes to byproduct for milk,” he said.

That’s when the USDA stepped in and said it wasn’t going to dump the milk, Followell said.

“This needs to go to families. Families are in need. We need to get it to them. They are not working right now. Let’s do this program,” he said of the USDA’s message.

The USDA contacted Prairie Farms to hand out 600,000 gallons of milk in the 22 states the company serves throughout June.

Having worked in the milk business for nearly 42 years, including Prairie Farms since 1989, Followell said he wasn’t surprised to see the company step up.

“We are a co-op. We are owned by a little over 600 farm families. None of our producers had to dump any milk. We have been going, going, going,” he said. “They are a top-notch company. They are top-notch for the communities. This doesn’t surprise me any at all. It’s just an outstanding outfit.”

Followell said the company also has an Our Caps, Your Cause program that allows people to collect milk caps and turn them in, and money is given to a worthy cause. That’s just another way Prairie Farms helps.

“We’re handing out thousands and thousands of dollars all of the time to different organizations,” he said. “It’s a great company. They do a great job. They really want to help.”

With the free milk giveaway, Followell said any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization can host an event.

The local churches fall into that category.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for the church to serve,” Weaver said of Seymour Christian Church hosting a giveaway. “It’s good for the community to see the church cares and we’re here, no strings attached. We’re hoping that people will want to be a part of something like this.”

In two-hour waves Saturday, different groups of church members helped with the giveaway, either unloading milk from the trailer, guiding people through the line or placing milk in their vehicles.

In all, more than 35 people, from teens to senior citizens, helped.

“We have such a good group of people that want to do something to make the world a better place,” Weaver said.

Jennifer and Kelly Compton were among the volunteers. Kelly is a deacon at the church, and his wife also is a member.

“It’s a great blessing to be able to do it, just to be able to do this for the community and be a part of it,” Jennifer said.

When the couple arrived at the church at 7:30 a.m., Jennifer said there were already people in line in their vehicles.

Weaver arrived 20 minutes later and said eight cars were in the parking lot.

“Sometimes, you notice it’s a small, symbolic thing that swings an opinion or that swings an attitude,” he said.

“If somebody feels like, ‘I’m on my own, I’m out of work, I’m not getting a paycheck, the stimulus money is already gone,’ whatever, they get something like a free $2 item, ‘OK, I can get through this. I can make it,’” he said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve looked back on things in my past where you notice something that was honestly seemingly insignificant but it meant the world.”

Tasha Lanning and Trina Willard were among those who received free milk Saturday. To them, it meant the world.

“This was awesome. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts,” Lanning said in a comment on a post by The Tribune on Facebook.

“God bless you, Prairie Farms and everyone who made this possible,” Willard said.

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What: Free milk giveaways

When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until the milk runs out every Saturday this month

Where: First Baptist Church, 505 Community Drive, Seymour, on June 13; Reddington Christian Church, 10516 N. U.S. 31, Reddington, and Freetown Church of Christ, 7077 N. State Road 135, Freetown, on June 20; and The Point, 311 Myers St., Seymour, on June 27

Who: Open to the public; no forms to fill out or donation restrictions; social distancing is observed; people are asked to drive up to the drop-off site and stay in their vehicle


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