An 81-year-old North Carolina Army veteran touched an emergency operator earlier this week when he dialed 911 — not because he was hurt, but because he was hungry.

Clarence Blackmon had just returned to his apartment in Fayetteville, N.C., after spending months in a hospital and rehabilitation facility where he has been battling cancer. When he got home, his refrigerator was empty. He had no family living nearby and no way to get to the grocery store. “I can barely walk without holding onto a chair,” he told the 911 dispatcher.

So he made an unorthodox yet desperate plea.

“What I need is someone to get to the grocery store and bring me some food because I need to eat something,” he said on the 911 tape. “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.”

Within moments, the dispatcher, Marilyn Hinson, was jotting down his grocery list: a head of cabbage, two bananas, a can of beets and a can of green beans, tomato juice, three Pepsis, some processed ham and, his “absolute favorite,” popcorn. He told her he had the money to pay her back.

Hinson, along with Fayetteville police officers, delivered the items to his door. She said she stuck around to make him a few ham sandwiches.

“He was hungry,” she told WTVD-TV. “I’ve been hungry. A lot of people can’t say that, but I can, and I can’t stand for anyone to be hungry.”

Blackmon told the Huffington Post he has prostate cancer. “It’s unreal how devastating one thing can be,” he said. “Sometimes I just fall down and pray.” He said his doctor gave him “maybe another six months. But he doesn’t know and I don’t know. Only God knows and I thank God I’m still here.”

Blackmon is getting a home health nurse soon, he told WTVD-TV, but, he’s thankful someone was there to help him this week.

“It was like a little miracle ringing in my ear,” he told the news station. “I thought, ‘Jesus, you’ve answered all those prayers.'”

[This story has been updated.]