Meet our Gleaning Coordinators

 

Western North Carolina, Charlotte Area, and South Carolina Program Coordinator

Jean Blish Siers

Contact: Email |  704-951-7672

Jean Blish Siers grew up on a small family farm in extreme northwestern Minnesota, where her family raised a little bit of everything: sheep, cattle, chickens, wheat, oats, alfalfa, and millet – as well as huge gardens that fed the family and were shared with neighbors. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, she and her husband moved to Charlotte in the late 1980s. While her son was growing up, she did freelance writing and editing, but also a lot of volunteer work at her church and son’s schools. In both places she saw the widespread need in a seemingly prosperous community, and also the difference that a few hands and a lot of love can make in people’s lives.

While her son was in college, she worked in the private sector, but felt the tug to come back to a job where, at the end of the day, she felt she had made a positive impact in lives in her community. Since late August 2012, Jean has been the coordinator for SoSA for the Charlotte area.

Each day that she works for SoSA, she is amazed at the commitment of volunteers and growers. When she calls, people help. Individuals and groups call each week, hoping to get into a field. She has stood sweating in a field, and when gleaners are told they’re done for the day after picking thousands of pounds of corn or sweet potatoes, they say, “Why do we have to quit now?”

Some farmers plant fields just for the gleaners. “I’ve been given a lot with this land and have raised my family here,” one grower told her. “I believe I’m called to give back.”   Other farmers share from their bounty, when plowing it under might be easier and quicker for them.

Each week, she experiences at least one moment of grace, in the face of a recipient who shares her collard recipe, or in the voice of a farmer, delighted to be able to share. When her drivers describe where they take produce, whether it’s a neighborhood, a church soup kitchen, a senior meal site, or a refugee center, she hears the same thing: “They were so happy to get the produce. They feed a lot of people!”

Each day when she signs onto her computer, she remembers that. Folks are so happy to get that produce, and there are so many people to feed.

Counties: North Carolina: Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Richmond, Rowan, Stanly, Union  ♦  South Carolina: Chester, Lancaster, York


Fayetteville

Tricia Lounsberry

Contact: Email  |  910-488-0471

Tricia Lounsberry grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina watching her father gather leftover produce for the hungry. He would park his truck next to harvested potato fields, glean forgotten spuds, and distribute them to folks in need. Tricia’s mom had a servant’s heart too. She was on crutches for the last ten years of her life, but she never stopped driving shut-ins to the beauty shop to brighten up their days. This attitude toward service was contagious.

Tricia was living in Tarboro in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina. Immediately she got involved in the relief efforts, and has not stopped serving the poor since. When she moved back to Fayetteville in 2004, she signed on with Society of St. Andrew to glean for hunger relief. She quickly connected with gleaners from a broad range of churches, crossing racial, ethnic, and class lines.

Gleaning in Fayetteville spreads by word of mouth. Tricia calls farmers, calls her gleaners, and God’s work gets done. Nowadays she delivers potatoes to some of the same places her father did all those years ago. Thirteen years in, it’s hard to imagine the Fayetteville region without Tricia Lounsberry at the helm!

Counties: Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland


Eastern North Carolina

Contact: Email – Phone: 252-557-3009

Ryan BradshawRyan Bradshaw is a business instructor at Wayne Community College and works as the Northeast NC area gleaning coordinator with the Society of St. Andrew. He holds a BS in business administration and a BS in criminal justice from the University of Mount Olive, an MBA in marketing from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in education from Liberty University. He lives is eastern North Carolina with his wife, two daughters, and son.

Counties: Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Halifax, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Onslow, Pamlico, Pitt, Wayne, Wilson


Triad

Paul ThombsContact: Email  |  336-347-8814

Triad-area coordinator Paul Thombs was born in Kings Mountain, NC, one of eleven children. His father was a Methodist minister. Paul did his undergraduate studies at Winston Salem State University, and is a retired Disability Specialist for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He’s also a bi-vocational Pastor/Founder of Nehemiah Worship Center of Winston Salem. He and his wife, Virginia, have an adult daughter who is married with two sons, William and Daniel.

Volunteerism and giving back to his community is important to Paul. He is past president of Big Brother Big Sister Volunteer Association, past member of the Board of the Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministry, past member of the board of directors of the Society of Saint of Andrew, and a recipient of the WXII Piedmont Triad Volunteer Award.

Paul has been an active volunteer with Society of St. Andrew for many years, and in retirement, has signed on to coordinate gleanings in the Triad! One of Paul’s greatest joys is rescuing food and ensuring it gets to those who are in need. And it has been especially rewarding working with a group of committed volunteers averaging 75+ years of age!

Counties: Alamance, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes, Yadkin


Triangle

Aundrea Brown

Contact: Email  |  919-533-9609

Aundrea BrownAundrea Brown grew up in Bluffton, SC. She has worn many hats over the course of her professional life, working as a lead pre-K teacher for seven years, managing a fitness center and even working as an insurance agent. One thing that has been constant, however, is Aundrea’s commitment to serving others. Aundrea says, “I believe that helping others brings meaning into your life. It makes you appreciate the small stuff, and the simple things we take for granted.”

Aundrea had her first brush with the Society of St. Andrew at a Potato Drop after moving to Durham in 2015. She fondly remembers counting fast-moving bags of sweet potatoes as they were loaded into distribution vehicles. Since then, her involvement with SoSA has only grown deeper and more constant. As a volunteer, Aundrea was quick to offer to distribute produce to food pantries after a gleaning. She was sometimes asked to help lead gleanings and through that experience got to know many of the farmers in the Triangle region. As an Area Coordinator, Aundrea’s upbeat energy and can-do attitude are infectious! Even on the hottest days of the North Carolina summer, Aundrea can be found cracking jokes and sharing stories; making sure her volunteers feel less like solitary workers and more like a collaborative team.

Counties: Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Johnston, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake, Warren


Western North Carolina

Polly Phillips

Contact: Email  | 828-513-0765

Polly Phillips took on the role of Western North Carolina Area Coordinator in 2020. Polly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina Asheville with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Policy and Management. Her interest in food justice was sparked as an intern with Swannanoa Community Garden. This garden opened her up to a new world of gardens that give to people that don’t always have access to fresh produce. This then led Polly to a position with Americorps VISTA for Verner Center for Early Learning. Through VISTA, Polly leads volunteer opportunities in their community garden and helps create garden curriculum for the children.

Polly grew up in the Asheville area and is a firm believer in giving back to the community that helped raise her. Working for SoSA combines her two main loves: environmental action and giving to others!

Counties: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, McDowell, Rutherford, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Yancey, Watauga