Share the Table
Michele Bennett, Chairperson
Carrie Hewitt, vice-president introduced Michele ‘a Virginia native who has lived in the Topsail area for nearly 10 years. She is currently using her graduate degree in her role as the Housing Specialist for an Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACTT). In this role, she works out in the community, providing services for clients with severe and persistent mental illness. Michele began volunteering at Share the Table on Sunday evenings with fellow church members from St. Philip’s Episcopal (Holly Ridge). Three years ago, she was elected as Treasurer to the Board of Directors but has happily passed on that role to another board member. Michele was elected to serve as Chairperson this year, her fourth year of elected service. ‘ Today, Michelle is filling for Dawn Ellis, Executive Director of Share the Table that serves Pender and Onslow Counties.
Michelle noted that “Share the Table, Inc. is a faith-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization supported by seven charter churches, community churches, civic organizations, and local businesses in Pender and Onslow Counties in North Carolina. Through our free community meal, food pantry and school backpack programs, we are feeding over 950 Pender and Onslow country residents per week.”
The Share the Table program
In normal times, Share the Table offers a food pantry in which clients can choose the food their family needs; and a warm food meal every Sunday for anyone with fellowship at the Share the Table warehouse, located on Hwy 50 between Surf City and Holly Ridge (12395 NC-50, Hampstead, NC 28443). In addition to the food warehouse, there is a Household ministry section with supplies for the home. Another program that Michele mentioned was ‘The MUNCH Backpack Program that aims to address child hunger in our local schools by providing at-risk children with backpacks of nutritious, child-friendly food to take home over the weekends during the school year.’ This program continues in summer months as well.
Share the Table is a truly open program with no need to demonstrate a need. Clients with food insecurity have a lack of knowledge of where you are going to get your next meal. You do not know where supper will come from. Plus clients have lost jobs. Some clients are returning after long absences.
In Pender County, 13.6% of people and 21.4% of children are food insecure. In Onslow County: 15.2% of people and 20.4% of children fit this category. With COVID a staggering 19-21% increase in food insecurity is projected in the two counties for next year.
This year Michele noted that the client demand has shown a 57% increase in food distribution needs due to COVID as clients lose jobs or have work hours cut. Even given the food shortages in food banks, Share the Table has distributed 54,800 lbs of food accounting for 5000 meals counting the backpack program.
The COVID-19 adjustment
Michele noted that COVID-19 restrictions has changed the way Share the Table operates its programs. Now clients drive up to receive pre-packaged food boxes and most of volunteers know clients so are able to adjust food boxes on the fly. However, the Household ministry section has had to close due to space limitations. The Sunday meal and fellowship program has changed to a warm food to go operation.
Although there is no shortage of volunteers, the volunteer’s profile has changed as some of the older volunteers at high risk of COVID have temporarily stepped aside.
How can you help?
When asked by the Kiwanis audience, Michele replied that the best way to contribute at this point in the pandemic is by a monetary donation to Share the Table
Donate online at <https://www.sharethetablenc.com/donate>
Make checks payable to:
Share the Table, Inc.
PO Box 4170
Surf City, NC 28445
You can learn more about Share the Table at their website <https://www.sharethetablenc.com/>