Terry Foley, director of Catholic Parish Outreach food pantry in Raleigh, is set to retire from that role at the end of June. Foley served as director for 14 years and, although she is stepping down, she intends to stick around.
“I am planning to take the month of July off,” Foley explained. “Then I hope to get out and volunteer throughout the community, including at Catholic Parish Outreach and the new Catholic Charities Durham Community Food Pantry.”
Foley saw many changes during her time at CPO. She first learned of the food pantry in 2001 when she responded to a bulletin announcement looking for volunteers. She had recently been let go after a downsizing by her employer and was looking for something to do with her time.
On her first day at the facility, which was located on Capital Boulevard at the time, she and three other volunteers and one paid part-time staff member assisted 32 families. That was considered a “big day” at the time.
“At first, I signed up to volunteer one day a month, but that wasn’t enough,” Foley said. “I quickly began coming three days a week to help out.”
The more she volunteered, the more she fell in love with CPO. “I knew working there would be my dream job,” she explained. “When the position of program director became available in 2004, I applied.”
The job, it turned out, was hers. It was part time. And she was the only paid staff member. But, as the food pantry grew, Foley began working full-time. She devoted this extra time to building both the programming and the formal fundraising efforts to ensure the program was sustainable.
She oversaw CPO’s move from a small facility on Capital Boulevard to its current 15,000-square-foot facility on Raleigh Boulevard. During her time, CPO went from serving 32 families a day, to 110 families on a typical day today. In 2008 and 2009, during the height of the recession, when many families needed a little extra help, CPO served as many as 11,000 individuals per month.
Reflecting on her time at CPO, the community environment had a clear impact on her. “The love between clients, staff and volunteers is incredible,” she explained. “I have always looked forward to coming into work every single day. After 14 years, it is still my dream job.”
That loving community is what she will miss most when she retires. “Leaving the clients, the volunteers, and the staff is the hardest part of retiring,” Foley explained. “But I plan to come back and volunteer and see the great members of this community.”
Q&A with Terry Foley
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of working at CPO?
A: The fundraising piece. Making sure we have enough funds to run the facility, pay for the food. That part takes a lot of time.
Q: Is there a particular client interaction or success story that stands out in your mind?
A: [There’s a woman with] five or six kids … she is a big success. Her children are now mostly grown and doing great. She is a wonderful inspiration to me and many other people.
Q: What are you most proud of from your time at CPO?
A: That we were able to serve as many as 11,000 people during the recession and not miss a beat. I am proud of the community that we have developed. We have staff and 2,000 volunteers who love each other. It is a wonderful community. It’s not because of any one person; it’s a wonderful community.
Q: What will you miss most about CPO?
A: The people. That’s an easy one. The clients, the volunteers, the staff.