Meet our Area Gleaning Coordinators
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.
Contact: Email | 704-951-7672
Counties: North Carolina: Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Richmond, Rowan, Stanly, Union ♦ South Carolina: Chester, Lancaster, York
Eastern North Carolina
Bill Waller grew up in Lenore County, outside Kinston, North Carolina on his family’s tobacco farm. He graduated from Atlantic Christian (now Barton College) in Wilson, NC, and worked for many years in customer service with a shirt manufacturing company in Kinston. He retired after spending six years at a second job in early childhood services, and got deeply involved with the gleaning group at Westminster United Methodist Church in Kinston. When the Eastern North Carolina Gleaning Coordinator stepped down “temporarily” in 2002, Bill took over, and fifteen years later he is still in the position!
Being a people person, Bill loves working with new gleaners. He has many wonderful contacts in his region, one being his friend Gloria Anderson who can have a gleaning group together at the drop of a hat. Some of Bill’s fondest memories come from gleaning alongside inner-city youth at an annual summer camp. Getting kids off the streets and into the fields gives him hope that the next generation can carry us forward. Why does Bill work with SoSA? Because his life has been blessed and takes great joy in giving back.
Contact: Email | 252-522-2180
Counties: Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico, Pitt, Wayne, Wilson
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!
Contact: Email | 910-488-0471
Counties: Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland
Contact: Email | 828-508-4289
Counties: Primarily Haywood, sometimes surrounding counties
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!
Contact: Email | 336-347-8814
Counties: Alamance, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes, Yadkin
Triangle-area coordinator Jackie Evrard is a North Carolina native and has lived in the Triangle area for her entire adult life. She graduated from Eastern Carolina University and did accounting work in the corporate world for many years. Since 2000, she has worked in a wide variety of roles in the non-profit world, from development in a rescue mission, to children’s ministry, to accounting for a local church. She has always been, and continues to be, an active volunteer in organizations working for food justice, so her role at SoSA is a natural fit.
When asked how she would describe her job at SoSA, she responded: “I see gleaning as rescue work. As a gleaning coordinator, I get to be outside in the fresh air, working with other people to rescue food so the food can rescue people. We don’t rescue pounds of corn or potatoes. We rescue servings of food to put on plates that might be empty. We rescue a means for people to survive a crisis. We rescue the means for children to able to learn and grow to be the people God created them to be.”
Contact: Email | 919-533-9609
Counties: Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Johnston, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake, Warren
Western North Carolina
Deidre Duffy grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio without any connections to farms or gardens except the pathetic carrot she managed to (sort of) grow one summer. At age 19, she moved to the Pacific Northwest where she spent almost a decade working in the forest; fighting fires, maintaining trails, and planting trees. Her home base was in orchard country of Washington State’s Cascade Mountains. This is where she began her life as a gleaner – picking apples, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, and blueberries.
She met her husband, Michael, a native of North Carolina, one winter when they both lived in Portland, Oregon. They bonded instantly when they discovered that each of them had created a map of all the fruit and nut trees in their neighborhood where food was going to waste. Together, they harvested the food to share with friends.
Eventually, Deidre’s work life shifted to helping children and their families. She worked in a halfway house with teens, and later coordinated programs at Head Start, in an elementary school and with a public health department.
In 2008, Deidre and Michael moved to Asheville to be closer to their families. A few years later, she discovered SOSA. In April 2016, she began her role as the WNC coordinator and is thrilled to play a part (along with all the wonderful growers, vendors, gleaners, and distributors) in reducing food waste.
Contact: Email | 828-513-0765
Counties: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, McDowell, Rutherford, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Yancey, Watauga
Midland, South Carolina
Growing up in a rural area outside Homestead, Florida., Midland SC (Columbia region) area coordinator Beth Keisler spent a lot of time in the local fields, gathering what was left after the crops were harvested. Some was shared with neighbors and in their community, and the rest was canned or frozen for winter. In the summers, the neighborhood kids would have watermelon parties with the fruit “gleaned” from area farms.
After Hurricane Andrew, Beth moved to Pelion, SC where she met her husband. Seventeen years and five children later, they’re still at home in Pelion, and working hard to make it better for others. Beth began volunteering with SoSA in conjunction with a thrift store she operates, Secondhand Lions. Working with SoSA, Beth helped distribute thousands of pounds of produce to local shelters and food pantries. In 2017, she also started Palmetto Patriot Project and helped move SoSA produce to homeless veterans.
Beth says, “I feel blessed with every gleaning and every delivery that I make, being able to be a small part of an organization that’s helping to make changes in the lives of so many people throughout my state.” When the area coordinator position opened up, Beth said an immediate, “Yes!” and looks forward to continuing to serve and feed the people of her area.
Contact: Email | 803-470-5672
Counties: Aiken, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter
Upstate South Carolina
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Upstate South Carolina gleaning coordinator Elise Ashby has seen the world. As a teenager, she moved to Marin County, California; attended Howard University in Washington, DC, and studied International Business and worked in several African countries (Egypt, Eritrea, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.) For the past two years, she has called Union County, South Carolina home.
Although Elise didn’t grow up in an agricultural setting, she has lived in and around impoverished communities. She worked for the International Division of the National Council of Negro Women (under the leadership of Dr. Dorothy I. Height) whose mission it is to improve the quality of life for women and their families. She’s a firm believer that “we have to help others in order to advance ourselves.” She created agriculture programs for women in Senegal and Zimbabwe; she established entrepreneurship programs for women’s groups in Ghana, Eritrea, and Egypt. And she’s worked with youth, faith-based, and agriculture groups to eradicate poverty through business creation.
A friend told Elise about the open position with Society of St. Andrew and she applied because she finds the work in line with what she wants to do in South Carolina: to provide farmers and agriculture based businesses with greater growth opportunities.
Elise enjoys working with the variety of organizations in her area, helping feed those less fortunate. She finds it rewarding to be a part of each step of the process: growing nutritious foods, selling and growing markets and most satisfying ensuring food doesn’t go to waste and people in need have healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Elise has one son, her pride and joy. When he was younger he used to say he wanted to feed the homeless. He grew up in DC where, unfortunately, there are a lot of homeless people. He amazed Elise: he never looked down on others; he would give money, food and clothing to those in need. “You never know what kids see, you surely see what they learn.”
Contact: Email | 864-660-9102
Counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Edgefield, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union