Loaves & Fishes Executive Director Beverly Howard has been awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, among the highest honors given to a citizen in North Carolina.
News of the award came as Howard was being honored for her 28 years of fighting hunger and poverty in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Howard’s last day as leader of Loaves & Fishes is May 27.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is presented to individuals who have a record of extraordinary service to the community that is above and beyond the call of duty.
Under Howard’s leadership, Loaves & Fishes became a national model and the largest pantry program in North Carolina.
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When Howard became executive director in 1988, the agency had six food pantries serving 20,000 people a year. Today, Loaves & Fishes has grown into a network of 20 food pantries, located throughout Mecklenburg County, that last year provided a week’s worth of groceries to more than 71,000 people.
At the height of the recession in 2012, that number peaked to a record 126,803 people fed. At no time during her 28 years leading the organization was a single person turned away due to lack of food, the agency says.
Prior to Loaves & Fishes, Howard served as the executive director of Friendship Trays in Charlotte. A founding member of the Unity Against Hunger and Poverty group in Charlotte, Howard also served as president of the Women’s Executive Director’s Network, and as a member of the national board of the National Association of Meal Programs.
Howard is being replaced Tina Postel, who was CEO of the Billings, Mont., Family YMCA for five years before moving to the Charlotte area in 2015. Since arriving in Charlotte, she has worked with the United Way of Central Carolinas in major gifts.