Friendship Trays, Loaves & Fishes merging

March 1, 2021

The boards of directors and executive leadership of Friendship Trays and Loaves & Fishes announced today that the organizations are merging to better position themselves to increase access to and distribution of healthy food and groceries for those in need in Mecklenburg County. Today’s announcement will begin a fully transparent process of joining operations to combine their boards of directors and staff, share resources and find efficiencies.

The new organization will bring together key stakeholders to find creative solutions for fighting food insecurity. Executive Directors Lucy Bush Carter (Friendship Trays) and Tina Postel (Loaves & Fishes) collaborated on the video announcement above. More information about each organization is provided on their individual websites: Friendship Trays and Loaves & Fishes.

For nearly five decades, Friendship Trays and Loaves & Fishes have worked collaboratively under independent missions to provide food to those in need in Mecklenburg County. As the primary Meals on Wheels program for Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Friendship Trays delivers nutritious meals to elderly or infirm individuals who are unable to obtain or prepare their own meals. Loaves & Fishes provides a week’s worth of nutritionally balanced groceries to individuals and families experiencing a short-term crisis, utilizing a network of emergency food pantries located throughout Mecklenburg County. The new organization will create a more seamless and streamlined process of securing food and getting it to those who need it.

“I think it is difficult for someone in crisis to know exactly where to turn and what resources are available to them. Being food insecure can be a scary, shameful experience and we want to work together to improve that,” said Executive Director Tina Postel. “We believe that working together as one will improve overall access to nutritious food in a way that ensures kindness, dignity and hope are also byproducts of our services.”

Originally planned for last spring, the merger of Friendship Trays and Loaves & Fishes evolved as both organizations had to adjust outreach, operations and delivery models due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The information sharing and logistics support both teams have shared for many years became critical in 2020. Bush Carter and Postel felt even more urgency to formalize their shared vision of creating a continuum approach to the complicated challenges of hunger, which impact a growing population in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

“There is enough food in Charlotte, the country and the world for everyone,” said Executive Director Lucy Bush Carter. “Getting that food to those who need it is a matter of distribution, and Friendship Trays and Loaves & Fishes represent best practices in that area.”

The first step of this merger will be to formally unite the staff of both organizations under one roof, as safety measures allow. Postel will become the CEO of the new organization, with Bush Carter serving as director emeritus through the transition. Both boards of directors will combine into one board to serve the newly formed 501(c)3. The formal organization name will be Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays, Inc., but may change as the mission evolves. Both organizations are financially sound with strong donor support.

Since 1976, the mission of Friendship Trays has been to deliver nutritious meals to elderly or infirm individuals in the Charlotte community who are unable to obtain or prepare their own meals. Before COVID-19, Friendship Trays cooked and couriered a meal to the doorsteps of over 700 recipients. Friendship Trays still strives to deliver human connection to those who are isolated and lonely. For more information: www.friendshiptrays.org.

Since 1975, Loaves & Fishes has provided groceries and hope to Mecklenburg Co. neighbors in need through a network of emergency food pantries, feeding 1,000 individuals through one food pantry that first year. In 2020, Loaves & Fishes provided nutritious groceries to 120,200 individuals, a 50% increase over 2019. Half of the recipients were children and seniors. As COVID-19 forced the closing of its 41 brick and mortar pantries, Loaves & Fishes switched to distributing groceries through mobile pantries and home deliveries. For more information: www.loavesandfishes.org.

In their own words:

What is Friendship Trays? – Lucy Bush Carter

What is Loaves & Fishes? – Tina Postel

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Friendship Trays wants to hear your questions

COVID-19 has had enormous effects on our community, and one such effect, that has been heart-wrenching to see, is the escalating need for food assistance in our area. This 50% increase in need, largely among children and seniors, challenges our community to mobilize and respond. Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays represents best practices in addressing this need.

Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays will continue their operations of service. Recipients of Friendship Trays will continue to receive healthy and nutritious meals. We will still need our faithful donors and volunteers to sustain our mission to deliver nutritious meals to elderly or infirmed individuals in the greater Charlotte community who are unable to obtain or prepare their own meals, while also providing human connection to the isolated and lonely, and peace of mind to their families.

As we continue to navigate our way through change in this pandemic world, thankfully there are things that have not changed at all. A constant has been the much-needed support and generosity from you, our donors and volunteers. Even while times have become increasingly difficult for so many, you send us much needed donations, both monetary and shelf stable food items. Our faithful volunteers have stood by, some returning to our newly developed delivery system, some helping with phone contacts to recipients, and others ready to step in when we need you. We cannot begin to tell you how much your presence means to our mission!

Please contact us with your questions. We will be happy to share more details with you as we move forward together.

Friendship Trays’ number: 704-333-9229

Lucy Bush Carter, Executive Director ext. 2112
Lani Lawrence, Assistant Director ext. 4842
Frandetta Barnes, Operations Administrator ext. 4840
Martha Cochrane, Volunteer Coordinator ext. 4846
Deana Cooper, Volunteer Coordinator ext. 4843
Annie Cotten, Intake Coordinator ext. 4844
David Blough, Intake Coordinator ext. 4848
Renee Persuitte, Accounting ext. 4850
Kelly Vass, MS, RDN, LDN ext. 4845

In their own words:

Benefits from merger – Lucy Bush Carter

Benefits from merger – Tina Postel

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Boards are on board

Both boards of directors will combine into one board to serve the newly formed 501(c)3. The formal organization name will be Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays, Inc., but may change as the mission evolves.

Members of the Friendship Trays board: Marilyn Bellinger; Chris Clackum; Michael Elliot, secretary; Russ Ferguson; E. Nadine Ford; Tobe Holmes, president; Erin Kelly; Brian King; Natheley McElrath; Keith Pehl, vice president; Kate Richards; Carla Scott, ex-officio.

Members of the Loaves & Fishes board: Kristy Bell; Shelbra Booth; Ed Brea, Treasurer; Darius Chase; Tom Falish; Heather Harjes, At-Large Exec. Committee; Brooks Jaffa; Meredith Jeffries; Katie Kaney, At-Large Exec. Committee; Gene Katz, Past President; Thomas Kraus; Cathy Morrison, Secretary; Shana Plott, President-Elect; Mac Redfern; Amalia Reyes Juchnik; Joseph Sanger; Jacqueline Sinicrope, President; Alan Steele; Yamileth Vega.

In their own words:

History – Lucy Bush Carter

On October 4, 1976, six meals were delivered to the homes of elderly residents in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte. It was Friendship Trays’ very first day of operation. Members from local churches had recognized an emerging need in their community — aging or infirm members of their congregations who needed help with meals so they could stay in their homes and be independent.

Under the leadership of Ann Elliot, members of Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian Church, Hawthorne Lane United Methodist Church, Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church, St. John’s Baptist Church and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church started delivering meals and companionship on a daily basis. By the fall of 1977, Friendship Trays became an independent not-for-profit agency. By 1993, over 700 volunteers were driving more than 40 routes with six stops each. Friendship Trays grew to be the primary Meals on Wheels program for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Throughout the pandemic, Friendship Trays has changed their delivery model but not their commitment to helping keep their clients at home, healthy and safely independent.

History – Tina Postel

In 1975, a handful of community members were wondering what to do about a relatively new phenomenon in Charlotte – hungry people. At the time, there was no coordinated effort to address the issue. A small group of concerned lay people at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church came together and agreed that their community needed to organize and help people who were hungry. Loaves & Fishes was born.

In its first year, the pantry that began at Holy Comforter fed 1,000 people. At the height of the recession in 2012, Loaves & Fishes fed 126,000 people. In 2019, Loaves & Fishes provided a week’s worth of nutritionally balanced groceries to 80,232 people, enough to fill Bank of America Stadium, through a network of 41 pantries in Mecklenburg County.

In 2020, Loaves & Fishes provided nutritious groceries to 120,200 individuals, a 50% increase over 2019. Half of the recipients were children and seniors. As COVID-19 forced the closing of its brick-and-mortar pantries, Loaves & Fishes switched to distributing groceries through mobile pantries and home deliveries.

FAQ

What’s happening?
Loaves & Fishes and Friendship Trays are merging to strengthen their capacity to tackle all the faces and phases of food insecurity in Charlotte. This is a merger of two strong, healthy and historic equals who saw this as an opportunity to have a greater impact in meeting the ever escalating hunger needs of individuals and families, now intensified by the global pandemic and its continuing impact on our economy.

Why?
Since the mid-1970s, Loaves & Fishes and Friendship Trays have shared the belief that access to nutritious food is a basic human right for everyone in our community.

Loaves & Fishes provides nutritious groceries for neighbors in need. Friendship Trays delivers healthy meals to the elderly and infirm. Combining forces allows for distribution of more food to more people in more places in more efficient ways, with less waste. By increasing access to fresh, healthy food, this new organization will make sure that everyone’s hunger needs are met in the way that they need it.

Addressing food insecurity is crucial in providing economic opportunity and is part of a holistic approach to improving life for everyone in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Will the mission remain the same?
Both missions will continue, with the impact of services expected to grow. We are excited about the potential to have greater impact on the root causes of food insecurity by having a larger platform for advocacy.

The new organization will respect and celebrate the history of Friendship Trays and Loaves & Fishes. That will not change and we will remain true to the grassroots of our combined mission to feed people in crisis.

Why now?
The plan to merge was in place a year ago but was halted by the pandemic. Since that time the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem of access – people have lost access to fresh, nutritious food through job loss, isolation, illness, fear of leaving their homes, etc. As a result, both Lucy Bush Carter and Tina Postel felt even more urgency to formalize their shared vision to be the answer for access to healthy food so that no one in our community goes to bed hungry.

Who will lead the organization?
Loaves & Fishes Executive Director Tina Postel will become the CEO of the new organization. Friendship Trays Executive Director Lucy Bush Carter will serve as Director Emeritus through the transition. Both Boards of Directors will combine into one board to serve the newly formed organization. Both Friendship Trays and Loaves & Fishes are financially sound with strong donor and community support.

What changes will be seen? Will the name change?
Both Loaves & Fishes and Friendship Trays will continue operations as usual.

Friendship Trays will continue its mission to deliver healthy meals to individuals throughout the community. Loaves & Fishes will continue to distribute groceries through mobile pantry operations and home grocery deliveries. While services will continue uninterrupted, the opportunity to expand services through shared resources will provide the most immediate impact.

Once the merger is complete the official name of the newly formed organization will be Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays, Inc. but may change as the mission evolves. A first step of the merger will be to formally unite the staff of both organizations under one roof, as safety measures allow.

Each existing website will continue to offer information for the clients they serve, how to get involved, how volunteers may serve, and how donors may support our missions.

How will this impact volunteers? Donors?
Fighting hunger requires strong support from our community working together to make an impact through time and money.

The need for and deployment of volunteers for both programs is legendary and ongoing! It takes an army of volunteers to deliver meals and distribute groceries. WE NEED YOU!!!

Financial contributions are needed and appreciated, and can be made securely on our websites, by mail, or over the phone.

Please visit www.friendshiptrays.org and www.loavesandfishes.org for more information about volunteering or making a financial donation.