Reflections on a Life of Friendship

Remembering our Founder Ann Eliot (1920 – 2018)

By Executive Director Lucy Bush Carter

We often hear the familiar words “joining that great cloud of witnesses,” and Ann Mauldin Elliot truly earned her “membership!” We are privileged to witness Ann’s love and vision every day here at Friendship Trays.

Ann was swimming in the ocean at Topsail Beach when she got the call. It was the mid-seventies so a family member called to her to answer the landline in her mother in law’s beach house—a long distance call at that—from the secretary at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte.

“Ann,” she said, “you’ve got to give this thing a name!”

They discussed and officially named it Friendship Trays. She knew from the beginning the group was providing more than a meal, that volunteers sharing a minute or two with an elderly neighbor was as important as the food they delivered. For the millions of meals delivered since 1976, friendship is vital to the mission and core to what we do everyday.

It has been my honor and privilege to be a part of this ministry for most of my adult life. The staff and volunteers of Friendship Trays are dedicated to serving Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in a way that is contagious and fulfilling. From the moment that recipient’s face appears at the door in response to a knock and announcement of “Friendship Trays!” most volunteers are hooked! I surely was. I began as a volunteer with my 2-year-old… that was 33 years ago.

I don’t remember the first time I met Ann , but she was one of those rare folks who just exudes hospitality and warmth, always with a generous dose of humor.

And she was always on a mission! From her fierce loyalty to Carolina blue, (especially during basketball season) to her reminders that Christmas didn’t begin until the 25th and lasted until Epiphany, her mission didn’t stop with  hunger initiatives—a staunch supporter of public schools and every child’s right to an equitable education.

My favorite time of year was our annual Volunteer Appreciation event in the Great Hall at Myers Park Baptist Church, where Ann’s best friend and cohort, Lalla Gribble, was a member. The event was called “The Strawberry Breakfast.” The board of directors and our small staff at Friendship Trays worked together to prepare the breakfast, typically for about 300 people.

The tables were organized by route so drivers would look for their route number in the middle of the table and join other volunteers who served on the same route, often connecting in person for the first time. The menu was always an egg casserole called “Hopple Popple,” fresh strawberries, and Sally Lunn bread. The meal was cheerfully plated and served by the board of directors, and the volunteers loved it! The doors opened at 7:30 am, breakfast was served, awards were given out for length of service, and the crowd was released by 9:00 am so meals could be delivered by those volunteers who were scheduled for that day. No excuses for missing the mission!

Ann often said Friendship Trays was one of her greatest accomplishments (of which there were many), and I have to agree. The dictionary defines legacy as “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” Ann accomplished much, but the mission of Friendship Trays is her legacy.

Last year we celebrated Ann’s vision and accomplishments by creating a giving society “The Circle of Friendship” in her honor. Learn more here.