Our 4th person on the “Faces of Hunger Relief” list is one of our own: Connie Bledsoe. She is one of the most recognizable faces at the Arkansas Foodbank and is our longest tenured employee at 18 years strong. She has seen the impact hunger can have all across our state while she has worked with our agency members, but has never wavered as a passionate champion in the fight against it. She has played a big role in strengthening our agency members and coming up with ways to make them more efficient and stable. Because of that, the Foodbank is able to send out 67,000 meals a day across our 33-county service area.
Here is a look at how Connie got involved with the Foodbank and her journey the past 18 years.
What made you want to work at the Arkansas Foodbank? I had to use a food pantry once in the mid 90's. The people at the pantry treated me with dignity and respect. I felt like they were so happy to assist me and my two little girls. I worked for the Little Rock School District and was off for summer break. I decided to volunteer at the Arkansas Foodbank. I wanted to give back because of the kindness that the pantry showed me. After volunteering for a couple of weeks, I was offered an office position. I prayed about it and accepted the job because I felt this was where I was supposed to be.
What was it like when you started? When I first started working for the Foodbank, they had a small staff, one truck, and they provided food to many small pantries working in the same communities. The Foodbank was housed in an old UPS warehouse with uneven floors. We couldn't even drink the water because of the old pipes. I don't think many people even knew the Foodbank existed because of where it was located and there wasn't a lot of media coverage. I had never heard of the Foodbank until I had to use the pantry.
What has it been like to see the Foodbank grow to the organization that it is today? It has been amazing to see all of the growth and changes. The staff has tripled, we have 5 new trucks picking up and delivering food throughout our 33 county service area. We have a brand new facility. I could go on and on about the wonderful changes. Everybody knows who and what the Arkansas Foodbank is. Every time I turn around, I see the Foodbank on TV or hear them on the radio, etc.
Describe the importance of our agencies to the Foodbank? Our agencies are the arms and legs for the Arkansas Foodbank. They see the need first hand, in their community, at their churches, the school on the streets etc. There would not be a need for the Foodbank if we didn't have the member agencies.
You have played a big role in hunger relief in our state...Are there any experiences that stand out that make you feel proud of the work you have done? I am so proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization that makes a difference in people’s lives every day. Something that warms my heart is we appreciate our agencies. We have an annual luncheon and provide grants, to the members to purchase refrigerators, freezers, vehicles, food, pay utilities or the purchase gas to come pick up the food. I wish we could provide this to them more than annually. Most of our pantries are run by elderly volunteers. They provide to the needy out of the goodness of their hearts and feel that it is their duty to help their sister or brother in need. I can't take credit for anything. Now, after 18 years of working for the Arkansas Foodbank, I know that I am in the right seat on the bus!
What's the best part about your job? The best part about my job is the relationship/friendship that I have built with the member agencies. They are more like family. We have shared stories, laughed and cried together. I love my job and everyone that I work with.
The Foodbank is proud of the accomplishments that Connie and the Program Services team have made the past 30 years. Thank you Connie for being a Face of Hunger Relief.