Hunger Heroes

by | Oct 6, 2022 | Food & Drink, Nonprofit, Online Exclusives

Share the Table is raising funds for its planned 10,000-square-foot location that that will provide much-needed space for its food pantry, community meals and educational programs.

Since 2010 Share the Table has been fulfilling its mission to provide food where there is hunger, fellowship where there is loneliness and education to end the cycle of food insecurity. Those goals are the focus of the organization’s planned move to a new, bigger and more community-friendly facility. The education piece is especially crucial and reachable, as the new location will have the space for a slate of new classes on budgeting, nutrition and cooking healthy meals.

Dawn Ellis founded Share the Table in a temporary space at Faith Harbor United Methodist Church in Surf City. The idea began with talk between Ellis and a friend of providing a free community meal. She adds that “God finally put it on my heart to do the weekly meal.” And so, Share the Table was launched.

Ellis started the food pantry when she partnered with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to provide extra food to those neighbors who came to the community meals. She noticed that, although participants enjoyed the meal itself, their true excitement was over the extra food that they could take home. She notes that “people were picking up all the food after the meal. That’s when we started the pantry.”

Dawn Ellis Share the Table NC

Today the organization feeds about 1,000 individuals each week with the community meal, a food pantry and a school backpack program. They do this in a tight, dark, leaking and very warm warehouse space with limited parking. Volunteers help community members shop for their food items, serve on boards and committees, pack and deliver backpacks, rescue food from local grocery stores, work in the household ministry and continue to prepare the free meals on Sunday evenings.

Plans for the new facility include a groundbreaking in early 2023, followed by construction of a 10,000-square-foot building and plenty of safe, easily negotiable parking.

The new location, at the corner of U.S. Highway 17 and Perkins Road in Hampstead, will be home to a larger, well-lit food pantry with space for fresh produce and dairy items. New refrigerators and freezers will enable the organization to keep healthier food fresher longer.

The new facility will also be home to educational opportunities for community members. Volunteers are already lining up to lead workshops on financial topics such as budgeting as well as culinary topics such as cooking nutritious and healthy meals on limited incomes.

Share the Table Pantry NC

Beyond providing food items so that community members have the groceries they need for themselves and their families, Ellis felt a need to do more.
“We must also work together with the neighbors we serve to assist with budgeting, education on healthy foods and nutrition and overall health and wellness for their families where needed,” Ellis says.

Share the Table’s board and executive director made the decision in 2021 to pursue a larger facility to better serve their neighbors.

“We are serving 1,000 individuals each week out of a 2,000-square-foot warehouse that is not properly equipped and does not provide the space we currently need,” Ellis says. “As we expand our services, the additional space, including classroom and kitchen space, will be needed even more as we work to fulfill our mission of providing for the hungry in our community.”

Expanding services has always been key to the growth and sustainability of Share the Table. Ellis has seen needs and responded to them consistently over the past 12 years. The school backpack program was launched when she was volunteering at North Topsail Elementary School. At the time, it was the only school in Pender County with a backpack program, with food provided by Hampstead United Methodist Church (UMC).

Recognizing a greater need, Ellis asked Hampstead UMC if they could join in and expand to all the area schools. Today the program, known as Meals Until No Child Hungers (MUNCH), serves all Topsail-area elementary and middle schools. Food is packed in backpacks and sent home every Friday with students in need. This program is also offered throughout the summer with backpacks are delivered to children in need. In 2019 Share the Table added a food closet at Topsail High School.

Share the Table Hampstead NC

Today, Ellis says, the need continues to grow across Pender and Onslow counties, between the effects of the pandemic and the current challenges of inflation. The new Share the Table facility will enable the organization to respond to that need in bigger and more effective ways.

There will be a large waiting area for clients who come in each day as well as a space for those who participate in the Sunday community meal to sit down and enjoy their food and fellowship with others. Currently, the meal is prepared for take-out because there is just not room for anyone to sit and eat.

The new location will also offer the educational space that will become so valuable to those in the community who want to learn more about budgeting, financial literacy, food shopping on a budget and cooking nutritional meals with limited resources.

To ensure the plans become a reality, Share the Table launched a Capital Campaign in 2021. In the past 18 months, they have raised more than half of the funds they will need to build and furnish their new facility. In addition, the organization has secured a loan from Coastal Bank & Trust. Many generous businesses and individuals have contributed to the fund, and the organization has received some grant funding for the new educational spaces but, Ellis says, “We still need to raise the rest.”

Ellis as well as her warehouse operator, Milo Bannerman, and the 100-plus volunteers are more than ready to move forward, to expand their ability to provide food, fellowship and education in their new, safer, larger and more community-friendly facility.

Can you help?
Help Share the Table raise funds for its Capital Campaign Building Fund.
Donate by Mail:
Share the Table, Inc.
P.O. Box 4170
Surf City, NC 28445
Call: (910) 616-8897
email: sharethetablenc@gmail.com
Or visit online: sharethetablenc.com/donation-opportunities/

About the author

Pat Fontana

Pat Fontana

I am a business writer and communications workshop leader. My business, WordsWorking, and my recently published book, Talk to Me Like I’m a Human, focus on improving workplace communications, concentrating on the fundamentals of human interactions. I developed, write about and train on the concept of REAL Communications, encouraging others to communicate with Respect and Empathy, paying close Attention and Listening with intent. I can be reached at pat@words-working.net.
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