If there is one thing the Food Lion Feeds team has learned in our Hunger Relief Efforts since we began our work in 2014, it's that hunger doesn't take a break, especially not for the holidays. So, as we journeyed into the month of November and through the Thanksgiving holiday, the need to feed grew evermore present, and The Great Pantry Makeover team continued its travels across multiple states to answer the call.
To recap for those of you just joining us, this year marks Food Lion Feeds' third annual "The Great Pantry Makeover" (TGPM) campaign. This year, the company expanded from 30 pantry makeovers to 60 across its 10-state footprint in honor of its 60th anniversary. And, leading up to our anniversary date of Dec. 12, Food Lion associates will donate more than 2.5 million meals and 2,000 volunteer hours in total as part of its largest associate volunteer initiative.
And, we find as approach the final weeks leading up to our Dec. 12 goal of 60 total makeovers, our hearts are as full as our partner pantries' food shelves.
As a reminder, each week, you can keep up with the Food Lion Feeds team as we recap the impact we're making through The Great Pantry Makeover events here on our Lion's Tale blog. And, to keep up with TGPM events in real time, follow the excitement with daily updates on Twitter @FoodLionNews!
Nov. 9 – Canton, N.C.
"Good for the soul"
The Community Kitchen in Canton, N.C., has been a pillar in the community since 2006. It started out with a group of concerned locals deciding that something needed to be done for those that were food insecure in Eastern Haywood County and has since grown to serve an average of 1,200 people each month.
Currently there are two locations for The Community Kitchen; the original location on Pisgah Drive that serves dinner to individuals and families five days a week and the recently acquired location on Champion Drive that distributes food boxes twice a month. Due to exceeding capacity at the Pisgah Drive location, The Community Kitchen has been in the process of raising funds to complete renovations on Champion Drive so they can permanently move their operations there. It was at this time that Food Lion chose them as one of 60 recipients for "The Great Pantry Makeover" which Allison Jennings, pantry director and board member, describes as a "blessing that was much needed."
Food Lion Feeds helped with the purchase of new commercial grade shelving to store non-perishable goods and new dining room tables and chairs. Once renovations are complete, the dining room tables and chairs will not only help to double the amount of people that can be served at one time, but will also allow them to share in fellowship with one another.
Volunteers from Food Lion also helped to stock their shelves full of Food Lion product and prepare 120 bags for distribution to clients the following week.
"It's really great to be out here and helping our community" said Dave Geater, director of operations. "Today is a day that is good for the soul and I'm so glad we can be here."
In addition to serving dinner and distributing food boxes, The Community Kitchen provides a sense of community by helping people to apply online for jobs, giving them clothes for job interviews and allowing patrons to use their address on job applications if they are homeless.
If that wasn't enough to show how much The Community Kitchen cares about the people of Eastern Haywood County, a letter from a recent patron will help reinforce that. In his letter, he stated that at first he was shy and reluctant to go while he was struggling but since he was continually finding himself hungry, he decided to try it out. Not knowing what to expect, he was grateful and surprised at the same time how caring and helpful the staff and volunteers were, and that since he's been going there, he's a changed person.
"A great, warm meal, warm and friendly fellowship and friendship from The Community Kitchen has been a gift to me," the letter wrote. "My gift to them is becoming a new, outgoing, friendly and funny guy and helping to give back to the place that served me."
Nov. 9 – Lafollette, Tenn.
"A happy place"
Charlie Ruth thought he was retiring when he settled into the small town of Lafollette, Tenn.
Ten years later he finds himself working full time as the coordinator of the Food life Services of Campbell County Food Pantry. Charlie started driving several times a week to pick up food from Second Harvest of East Tennessee Food Bank. However the more time he spent at the pantry he began to feel a tug upon his heart to do more. Charlie now spends all of his days working to make sure the more than 400 clients that visit the pantry each week have food to eat when they leave.
When the food bank called and asked Charlie to apply for a great pantry makeover he was excited and began to think of the projects he dreamed about, but could not afford. He thought he might receive a few funds, but was overwhelmed when he realized Food Lion Feeds also wanted to have associates actually work in the pantry. Charlie questioned why Food Lion would do that and was told Food Lion is a part of the towns and cities they serve and they do not do not want anyone to have to choose between dinner and rent and gas and groceries.
Charlie wanted to spend part of the makeover money on refurbishing the client lobby with a mural and other improvement.
"A large percentage of our clients are seniors, Charlie said. "Many are in life situations where they cannot work and have no means of support. I want our clients to walk into an uplifting and happy space. We greet each client with a smile because we want this to be a place where the clients feel special when they are here."
Food Lion Feeds paid for all the supplies and two local artists volunteered their time to create a mural that met Charlie's dream.
Food Lion associates painted the remaining lobby walls and added lattice work to complete the mural. They stocked the pantry with perishable and non-perishable food and built a closet for the USDA food the pantry has to keep separated. Charlie will purchase a desk with the leftover makeover funds to compete the lobby renovations.
Associates and pantry volunteers were treated to a home cooked meal before departing.
"I knew about the pantry since they pick up donated items from our store seven days a week, but had never visited," said Cindy McCulloch, local Food Lion store manager. It fills my heart to see where the food items we pull off the shelves go and to know that they are providing food for our local residents that are in need. My heart is full and I am filled with emotion after seeing this space knowing that so many in our community would go hungry if not for this happy place."
Nov. 10 – Brevard, N.C.
"The sharing house"
As one of the larger food pantries in Brevard, N.C., The Sharing House truly reflects its name. The Sharing House serves their clients, or as they call them, neighbors, 26,000 pounds of food per month, equating to $42,900. Not only do they provide food assistance to their neighbors but they also provide clothing, blankets and even help pay utility bills and rent when someone receives a cutoff or eviction notice.
Up until last month, The Sharing House was distributing pre-packed food boxes to neighbors, but after being chosen as a recipient of Food Lion Feeds' "The Great Pantry Makeover," they received enough funding to turn a storage room into a client choice shopping area, which was modeled after Food Lion's store set up. For the pantry staff and volunteers as well as the neighbors that visit the pantry, this is a huge deal.
"I've been coming here for about 15 years and to be able to pick out my own food is amazing," said Johnny, one of the neighbors who frequents the pantry.
"People don't always have a choice of where they live or how they generate income, so for our neighbors to now have the choice to choose their own food is really empowering" said Shelly Webb, executive director at The Sharing House.
Food Lion is The Sharing House's largest donor of food every month and as part of The Great Pantry Makeover, they received an additional food donation that the volunteers helped stock their shelves with.
"We love Food Lion and all you do for us. Without the produce and meat you give us, we wouldn't be able to serve our neighbors like do and we are just so grateful," exclaimed Pam Schou, pantry and clothing manager.
Nov. 13 – Hampton, Va.
"Happy is an understatement"
Since The Welcome Table food pantry opened in 2015 at First Christian Church in Hampton, Va., it has seen its numbers grow from six people to over 150 people each month. Each Tuesday they welcome guests with open arms for the community meal they serve, which offers tables and seating in a respectful, dignified manner and allows guests join in fellowship with one another.
The Welcome Table relies on donations from the church congregation and community, and received several residential refrigerators and freezers through donations when they first started but soon after, one of the freezers broke down so it was one less freezer they could safely store food in. Not long after that, their second freezer broke down and just as they were wondering what they would do, they received the call that they had been chosen as a recipient for Food Lion's Great Pantry Makeover and would receiving a brand new, commercial grade freezer.
"Happy is an understatement" said Sylvia Winfrey, who manages the pantry. "We are so extremely grateful for Food Lion and our new freezer!"
In addition to the new freezer, The Welcome Table received 1,500 pounds of perishable and dry goods to stock their pantry. Once the food arrived on the truck, Food Lion volunteers unloaded the truck and stocked the pantry like it was one of their own stores, with everything lining up perfectly, and The Welcome Table could not have been more grateful.
Nov. 13 – Sanford, N.C.
"The little things matter most"
The Bread Basket of Sanford N.C., opens its doors five days a week to feed a hot, home-cooked meal to the hungry. The soup kitchen served its first meal of soup and sandwiches in 1990, and today, because of generous community support and donations, they now serve a well-balanced meal prepared onsite by a team of dedicated volunteers.
Located on a quiet street in town, the facility is equipped with an industrial kitchen, walk-in freezer and a well-stocked pantry. All of which makes it possible for them to feed the hundreds of people that eat from their kitchen daily. The organization seemed to have it all until recently Food Lion learned of a few least expected things that would help make life a little easier for their volunteers.
"Y'all made my day today; it's like Christmas morning," said Jen Preston as she cradled a sparking, new, stainless steel can opener in her hands.
Jen is the volunteer cook for the Bread Basket. Prior to winning a Great Pantry Makeover she had been preparing meals each day for two hundred people with an old can opener purchased for 25 cents from a yard sale. When Food Lion volunteers showed up with a new can opener and other donated equipment, Jen had just manually opened 60 cans in preparation for the meal that day.
Joe Panasci, Sanford-area director of operations, and his local store managers gladly lent a helping hand in the kitchen to prepare and serve a meal to the hungry people of their local town. Volunteers also gifted a new industrial vegetable peeler that could peel up to 20 pounds of potatoes at one time, helping to make things more efficient for volunteers who hastily prepare for the doors to open at 11:30 a.m. to a line of hungry people waiting to get inside.
"We serve people from all walks of life. There are people that have jobs, but after paying rent and bills there isn't much left for food. We serve the homeless and we have veterans that come. We're a small facility, but we do the best with what we have, and having Food Lion here to help is such a huge blessing, " added Susan Rosenthal, agency director for the Bread Basket.
Nov. 14 – Suffolk, Va.
Yvonne Green has been running East End Baptist Church's food pantry in Suffolk, Va., for 24 years now and has seen the wear and tear the pantry has sustained over the years. From old, worn out carpet to chipped paint and poor electrical circuits, it was in desperate need of repairs. However, Yvonne's focus was and continues to be on making sure people in need do not go hungry, which meant all those much needed repairs were moved lower on the priority list.
When Yvonne found out that that East End was chosen to receive a makeover from Food Lion, she couldn't contain her excitement because that meant those much needed repairs could now be addressed.
"I ran from the front door to the back door and over to the church office to tell everyone the news," Yvonne said. "And then I ran back to the pantry, hollering with joy!"
East End was able to replace the carpet with wood flooring, paint the whole interior of the building, change out light fixtures, update the electrical wiring and circuits and purchase sturdy shelving units to store dry goods. On November 14, Food Lion volunteers came out to assemble the shelving units, paint and stock the pantry.
Clients were just as excited as Yvonne was to see the makeover completed at the pantry.
"When clients walked in they were in awe after seeing the freshly painted building and even exclaimed 'you did all this for us?!'" said Annette, who volunteers and coordinated all the project work. "Having an updated building our clients can come to really helps show them that people do care."
It was clear by the enthusiasm and energy from the Food Lion volunteers during the makeover that Food Lion cares about the clients just as much as End East Baptist does.
Nov. 15 – Portsmouth, Va.
"The definition of partnership"
Ministry in Christ Food Pantry opened up its doors three years ago to serve the people in Portsmouth, Va., and although Yolanda and Nathaniel, who run the pantry, say they are a small ministry, they are a mighty food pantry that feed upwards of 50 people each month.
"Once you start, it's hard to stop because we want to make sure we're helping everyone that needs it," said Yolanda, pantry director. "Although most people come to us for food, we've delivered a few times if they don't have a way to get to us."
Though their 10' x 18' pantry room was in good shape, it lacked shelf space and adequate freezer storage, which made is challenging to store enough food for their bi-weekly distributions. However, this year the pantry was chosen to receive a makeover from Food Lion and received enough funding to buy two new freezers and shelving units. They were also able to use the funds awarded to them to paint their pantry room, replace damaged ceiling tiles and buy two portable coolers.
When you ask Yolanda what her reaction was after hearing she would receive support from Food Lion Feeds, her face lights up as she remembers hearing the good news. "I was so happy and so excited!"
Food Lion volunteers came to assemble the shelving units, organize the food and move the freezers in which allowed Yolanda to just sit back and watch, which is not something she gets to do often, and something that the volunteers insisted she do. At the end of the day the volunteers, along with Yolanda, had permanent smiles on their face and could not thank each other enough. Yolanda kept thanking the volunteers for their hard work and dedication, and the volunteers kept thanking Yolanda for their commitment to serve the community. That is the true definition of partnership.
Nov. 20 – Wilmington, Del.
"Just in time"
Three days before Thanksgiving 2017, Michelle Dobson was wondering where she could get extra items to help feed her family for holiday.
Food Lion was there to help Monday in two different ways.
First, the grocer provided free fresh items for her and more than 70 other Wilmington, Del., area hungry families at St. Helena's Food Pantry. Second, just 100 feet away more than 10 Food Lion associates where using power tools, painting and assembling shelves giving the 35-year-old church pantry a needed facelift as part of Food Lion's third annual "The Great Pantry Makeover."
"I just would like to say thank you to Food Lion associates," Dobson said during an interview after receiving food. "Keep up the good work."
Dobson just lost her job of 11 years working with a nearby plant. She has a family of five and said it sometimes becomes increasingly difficult to provide food for them even with government assistance.
The pantry is located in the basement of the church's activity center, which houses offices for church staff and volunteers. The pantry serves 60 to 70 families monthly.
"What a nice surprise!" said church business manager Paul Penna. "Today's makeover is going to modernize our pantry with better space, lighting, carpet and new shelving. We are just so grateful."
This was Food Lion associate Dedrick Dyton's first time volunteering in the community and he loved it.
"I just feel like it's a good thing to be able to come out and help your community," Dyton, 34, said. "Just knowing it's going for a good cause is great."
Dyton along with a small group of other local Food Lion associates assembled new shelves in the church's boiler room, while Food Lion Director of Operations Alan Phillips used power tools to cut wood and led his team in painting the whole pantry, which previously only displayed cinder block color.
"It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do," Phillips said as he painted the wall.
Once they finished with the actual prep work, the team moved the shelves into the room and stacked more than 1,000 pounds of food donated by Food Lion that volunteers will restock at a later date.
Finally, Phillips presented pantry organizer Dorothy Medeiros with a special Food Lion Feeds plaque commemorating the event.
"Hunger in America is such an important issue and today's action by Food Lion associates helps people in the Wilmington, Del., community deal with it," Penna said.
Nov. 27 – Lowndesville, S.C.
"Problem vs. solution"
Problem – More than 4,700 people in the small town of Lowndesville, S.C., face food insecurity daily having to make tough choices of where to find their next nutritious meal.
Solution – Local Food Lion associates volunteered their time while the company invested $5,000 to make life better for some of them Monday by improving food distribution services at Lowndesville Pentecostal Holiness Church Pantry.
During a recent "makeover," the pantry received a brand new covered wooden porch, a new upright freezer and new shelving. Food Lion associates spent Monday weather-proofing the new porch, which was built by a Sunday school class at First Baptist Church of Iva and assembling new shelves to provide better efficiency for the pantry.
"It is critical Food Lion is doing to help us here today," said Shirley Huston, pantry director. "The old porch we had was in such bad condition that we couldn’t allow clients to walk on it and the steps were really slippery, plus, we didn’t have a wheel-chair accessible ramp or porch covering. Food Lion has changed this for us."
The pantry gives a distribution to more than 75 families or an equivalent to about 300 people monthly. She said most of them are widowed seniors and a third includes children, some who live with their grandparents.
"A lot of our seniors live on these dirt roads out here and the nearest grocery store is about an hour away," she said.
In addition to Monday's makeover, Food Lion will make a food donation in early January to be donated during their monthly distribution. January is one of their hardest months to get donations since it is right after the holidays.
Food Lion Director of Operations Currie Dalton described Monday's The Great Pantry Makeover event experience as humbling.
"It means a lot especially because this was described to us as a high food insecurity risk area," Dalton said during an interview on a bench outside the pantry. "This is just a great opportunity for me and my team to give back. We are known as great retailers and today we became great people."
Golden Harvest Food Bank Upstate Outreach Coordinator Tammy Bobo was overjoyed that Food Lion again was helping an area that she services as well.
"Shirley is just one of my angels," Bobo said. Since she started the pantry last year the food bank has not had to come here and operate a mobile pantry."
The Hurstons started the pantry only a month after Bobo contacted them last year and explain for the need of a feeding agency in Lowndesville, S.C. After she got the church to sponsor her with a $100 a month operational budget, she got the ball rolling.
"I told her that was ok, we can transform that $100 into nine times more," Bobo said.
Apparently, she will do a lot more than that now that Food Lion was there to help.
Nov. 29 – Piedmont, S.C.
Maria Hollis met with a small group of Food Lion associates in Piedmont, S.C., Wednesday and shared some heartbreaking stories.
In one instance, a homeless man asks if staff at the Piedmont Emergency Relief Center could give him a bar of soap.
No food – just soap.
He needed it to take wash himself in a nearby river. In another instance, a woman lost her job and then there was the family who needed food because they literally live from paycheck to paycheck.
This helped associates to understand their impact Wednesday as they painted a pantry storage room, assembled new shelving and organized non-perishable donated food. The act was part of Food Lion's third annual "The Great Pantry Makeover," which was doubled this year to celebrate the company's 60th anniversary.
"We are so thankful for Food Lion," Hollis said during an interview inside her office. "You have impacted a wide area that includes a lot of people who need help."
Piedmont Emergency Relief Center, which is housed in part of the old Piedmont Mill, was opened in 2005. Its main services include provided residents in Greenville, Anderson and Pickens counties with food and clothing.
"We help from 200 to 400 families monthly," Hollis said. "A lot of them are elderly, single parents, or families who are just one paycheck away from a disaster."
In addition to providing shelving and painting on Wednesday, Food Lion also paid for new flooring, three new freezers, an air-conditioner, two refurbished computers and lighting for the dark pantry area.
Tuesday was local Food Lion cashier Jaime Jolly's first time volunteering locally on behalf of Food Lion. She has been with the company for just seven months.
"I love it," she said. "It gives me great joy to give back and a new perspective as a cashier of what is going on in our community instead of just staying inside the store."
It didn't take long for the group, headed by local Director of Operations Dave Geater to finish the project. Some have even committed to coming back at a later date.
In the end, Geater presented a special plaque to commemorate the event, which Hollis said will hang proudly in the agency's office so that clients can see that Food Lion is a great community partner.
"I don’t think I can actually express what I am feeling right now," she said. "People just don’t realize how many hungry people are here. Thank you, Food Lion."
Dec. 1 – Moore, S.C.
Food Lion associates' help came in the "nick of time" Friday as they packed hundreds of bags of non-perishable and produce items at the Carpenter's Table Food Pantry to distribute to local hungry families on Saturday.
"We are actually able to provide more varieties of food because of Food Lion's help today and their donation of three new refrigerators and two freezers," Belinda Hinson, pantry operations director.
As a recipient of the Great Pantry Makeover, the agency was awarded $5,000, which they will use to paint their building, purchase freezers, refrigerators and other needed items.
The Carpenters Table began in 2009 and is supported by five local churches that raise food for the pantry and send volunteers to support it.
"They are the distribution arm that is in touch directly with the community," said Ron Miller, Director of the Spartanburg Branch of Second Harvest Food Bank. "Food Lion has helped them to more than double the size of fresh food it can now give to families on their distribution day."
And that day is on Saturday.
"We have families that show up with different situations," Hinson said. "We have people who just lost their jobs and then we have people who are single parent families."
It takes three hours to distribute the items and even longer to prepare all the bags to distribute, but Food Lion associates made it easier on Friday.
Pantry volunteer Retta McAllister said if she had to describe Friday's experience in one word it would be "generous."
"I selected that word because it's just very generous of Food Lion to help support our hunger needs in Spartanburg County," she said.
In addition to pantry makeover events, Food Lion Feeds also distributed more than 55,000 meals to Pentecostal Temple (Greenville, N.C.) and First United Methodist Church (Glasgow, Ky.) during the month of November.