Kindhearted Operator Delivers Food to 81-Year-Old Vet Who Called 911 for Help

Fayetteville, North Carolina, emergency dispatcher Marilyn Hinson responds to Clarence Blackmon’s plea for assistance with a trip to the grocery store.

(Photo: ABC News)

May 14, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

An old jar of pickle relish and a small glass container. That’s what 81-year-old veteran Clarence Blackmon found in his refrigerator on Tuesday when he returned to his Fayetteville, North Carolina, home after several months in the hospital. With no relatives around to help and no way to get to the grocery store, Blackmon, who has been going through treatment for prostate cancer, took drastic action: He called 911 and asked for help.

“I’m not in peril of life and limb, but what I need is someone to get to the grocery store and bring me some food because I need to eat something,” Blackmon told the 911 operator. “Whatever you can do to help. I can’t do anything. I can’t go anywhere. I can’t get out of my damn chair.”

The dispatcher, Marilyn Hinson, wrote down the things Blackmon told her he’d like to eat—healthy food choices such as a head of fresh cabbage, an avocado, two bananas, beets, and canned green beans, as well as treats such as processed ham, soda, and his favorite popcorn.

Hinson’s supervisor gave her permission to head to the grocery store to buy the requested items. She and two Fayetteville police officers then delivered the food to Blackmon’s house, but the 911 operator didn’t just stock the veteran’s refrigerator. Hinson kindly took the time to make him a few ham sandwiches.

He was hungry, Hinson told WTVD-TV. Ive been hungry. A lot of people cant say that, but I can, and I cant stand for anyone to be hungry.

Since then, offers to help Blackmon have poured into the Fayetteville Police Department.

We had numerous calls, emails, folks calling us directly, calling the call center, calling 911, saying, ‘How can we help Mr. Blackmon? police officer Antoine Kincade told the station. Blackmon has received so many offers of help that he’s encouraging people to donate to the Salvation Army to help other folks who may be in the same circumstances.

I want everyone that goes hungry, or lives under a bridge, at least they can go to the Salvation Army. They can get some good food, said Blackmon.

Plenty of folks are in Blackmons situation. According to Feeding America, nearly 50 million Americans don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal, and veterans are disproportionately impacted by hunger. According to the organization, 20 percent of families accessing Feeding America food banks and pantries include a veteran, and 25 percent of families include an active-duty service member.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people have taken to social media to praise Hinson and the department for their actions.

“Thank you all who helped this man when you really didnt have to because it wasnt specifically in your job description. Someday you will be repaid in some way, whether you realize it or not,” wrote retired nurse Iris Collins on the Fayetteville Police Department Facebook page.

Others are wondering why Blackmon was discharged in the first place if he didn’t have anyone to help him and there was no food at home. According to WTVD-TV, the rehabilitation facility that was caring for Blackmon failed to notify North Carolina Division of Social Services officials that the veteran was going home. A social worker has since stepped in to assist Blackmon, and a home health care worker will be visiting him regularly.