Norfolk Church promises changes after Christmas meal causes suspected food poisoning


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk Church says if you ate at their Christmas meal, they want to hear from you.

New Calvary Baptist Church held their annual community Christmas dinner on Dec. 21, 2019. Days later, several people had to go the emergency room according to Carmichael Flowers, a Norfolk resident who attended the meal.

The health department did not respond for request for comment. However, church leadership confirmed they were investigating.

“Forty people at least got sick from that meal,” Flowers claimed. ” I was sick, temperature. Shakes, cold … hot one minute … cold the next. Just sick.”

He thought it might just be a severe case of the flu — until his neighbor who also ate the Christmas meal was rushed to the hospital with more serious symptoms. After a trip to the doctor, he was told he had food poisoning.

“I had it for five whole days,” Flowers said. “I eventually got medication.”

Recently, the Norfolk Department of Public Health came to his apartment building — which is owned by the church — to take surveys of people who ate at the church, according to Flowers.

“The health department has been incredibly helpful in this process,” said Rev. Dr. William Marcus Small, senior pastor. “You know, we indeed regret that anyone has been affected by this.”

Small said in his nearly 10 years as Pastor, they have not had an incident like this. He says as soon as the church was made aware, they took action.

“The statement was made in church of the procedure for the health department … but we served over 500 people, it would be difficult to track down those affected who don’t attend New Calvary,” Small said.

If someone did attend the meal and did become ill, Small askes you contact the health department.

Here is a statement in full from the church:

“New Calvary Baptist Church has a long and rich history of serving its community. The ministry of our church has been undergirded in social justice and community service for many years. Over the course of several years New Calvary has shared with our community in the issuing of Thanksgiving baskets to over 300 families each year, as well as sharing in our Christmas Community Food and Clothing Drive which helps over 500 people by providing clothes though the winter months as well as sharing in our community Christmas meal. We have had tremendous success in the past with all of our ministry endeavors.  All of these efforts have been able to be achieved with the wonderful help from our faithful church members and their kind donations. It has come to the attention that some individuals became ill during our community feeding outreach. We deeply regret that this incident has occurred, and pray that those who suffered as a result have recovered.  In light of this unfortunate event New Calvary has been cooperating with the Health Department throughout their investigation and our facility has been found to be up to standard and compliant with their thorough inspection.  New Calvary is currently working on ways to work on vetting procedures to help eliminate this issue in the future. It is the hope of the church that particular care is taken to responsibly report the proper information as not to injure the reputation, citizens, and faithful members of New Calvary, who have worked diligently to support her community as well as do ministry here in the city of Norfolk. New Calvary is committed to continually partner with her city and its wonderful citizens to bring assistance to those who have need.” 

– The Rev. Dr. William Marcus Small, senior pastor

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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