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Community Leader, Advocate, Visionary: Leigh Pettus Retires After 22 Years at MANNA

Leigh revAs I wind down 22 years at MANNA FoodBank, I would like to thank all who have supported me: the partner agency heroes, volunteers, VISTAs and AmeriCorps members, current and former staff, colleagues near and far, food and financial donors, my family and friends.

MANNA has a unique role and responsibility as a catalyst and convener for community engagement and change. In 1992, we were located in a 10,000 square foot facility on Garfield Street. MANNA was distributing 800,000 pounds per year to a network of less than 100 partners. There were several counties with no pantries or meal programs.  We are distributing close to 13 million pounds now through a network of 211 partners out of two growing 46,500-plus square foot warehouses. Volunteers contributed close to 60,000 hours last year, the equivalent of 27 full time employees. Nationally, Second Harvest evolved to America’s Second Harvest and currently Feeding America in direct response to the growing hunger problem in the United States.

We have weathered numerous storms over the years, advocating for resources and providing food  for people in need through partner agencies, most recently a recession that still leaves Western North Carolina lagging behind in recovery. We have a strong place at the table of easing their burden.

It is with pride and awe that I salute the growth of volunteerism, food stamp outreach, agency capacity “zone” building, focus on produce, and commitment to strengthening community and local support for our partners on the ground. I commend leadership and staff on its focus on quality and continued improvement. Our agency relations and program team is going to soar.

MANNA is and will always be a part of me. Proudly, and quoted across the Feeding America network, “once a food banker, always a food banker!” The memories and images of MANNA and those we serve will continue to feed my spirit in my new chapter of life. MANNA will always be the image of hope.

I am especially grateful to Toby Ives, Kitty Schaller, and Cindy Threlkeld for your leadership and mentoring over the years.

We all have a place at the table. Please stay in touch .You can contact me at pettus57@gmail.com

From Kitty: Over 22 years, Leigh Pettus has become a backbone of MANNA FoodBank for her tenacity and verve.  She has broken new ground and created many programs that assist those in need across Western North Carolina.  At the same time, she has inspired so countless others – staff and volunteers, agencies and government officials.  Their work in turn has changed lives and spread the importance of MANNA‘s work to the far reaches and close-by neighborhoods in our region and beyond to our state and nation.

From Toby: The blessing Leigh has brought to the MANNA agency is huge, but her generous and caring spirit has brought joy to the many lives she touched in expanding MANNA’s volunteer base.  And in the far larger picture, Leigh’s capable, energetic, passion to serve has been blessing to thousands of people in Western North Carolina who have been able to put a meal on the table for their children, their elderly parents, their spouse, for themselves.

From Cindy:  When Leigh started at MANNA 22 years ago, we were distributing 400,000 lbs. of food per year.  During her final year with us, we distributed 14.1 million lbs.  Leigh had a major role in MANNA’s response to the growing need in our region.  She has been the true spirit of MANNA, and a voice for those in need.  Her refusal to tolerate hunger has motivated our team to continue to strive for our vision of a hunger-free WNC.