Meet our Area Gleaning Coordinators
Western North Carolina, Charlotte Area, and South Carolina
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
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
Contact: Email | 919-533-9609
Counties: Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Johnston, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake, Warren
Western North Carolina
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