Honored to Serve

"And it's been an immense pleasure seeing the sheer joy and happiness on the faces of the families as they come to pick up their boxes."

Cafeteria Manager

Cafeteria Manager

North Mecklenburg High School

North Mecklenburg High School

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Since buildings closed in March 2020 through May 2021, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Child Nutrition Team served 6,747,061 meals in a variety of ways. Joyce Preston, a 23-year-veteran of CMS, led the distribution site at North Mecklenburg High School.

We first started by feeding people out the back door. People would pull up and request how many meals they would like. And we would package just as if you were ordering a to-go meal from a restaurant. Then we started to go out into the community on trucks and serve those same packages. When the pandemic was not ending, we started with what we call “bundles,” which are five breakfasts and five lunches within one box. And we put them on buses to take them out to areas of town that had desperate need for food. And it was amazing to see the look on people's faces and the sheer joy to see you coming with food. I remember one particular tot was on a Big Wheel, those little Big Wheels bikes that we all grew up on. And she just plopped that box down, and sat on that box and then took it home with a smile on her face. It was amazing.

We also had a program that we've done since I can remember, a distribution site where we take meals daily out to the community to different housing projects, apartments, YMCAs, Salvation Army daycare centers. And that continued, we did that all through the summer. So we had both programs running. We had, I believe, 68 sites where parents could come and pick up the meals. And we also had our distribution site working with a team of three truck drivers with refrigerated trucks, along with people to serve out into the community, to reach those who couldn’t get to us.

When you think about real estate, they say the three most important things are location, location, location. And I'm thinking for us, it's been revision, revision revision, because we've changed so much. And the rain! We are literally out there serving the public in rain, snow, sleet, or hail. My staff, I give them all the credit. My team is more cohesive than ever. It's been great. Adversity can tear us apart or it can create symmetry. And we chose the latter here at North Meck and we enjoy working together more than ever.

I think one of the things that we've tried to do or that I've learned is to say, “I get to,” instead of, “I have to…I get to.” So often in work and in life we think, “Well, I have to go to work and I have to do this. I have to do laundry.” And we always focus on that. But the pandemic has given us time to pause and reflect and hopefully more people than not can see what really matters. So I think, “I get to”, not that I just get to, but I have the privilege of helping feed a plethora of families in the Huntersville area. And it's been an immense pleasure seeing the sheer joy and happiness on the faces of the families as they come to pick up their boxes. It just about brings me to tears. I feel honored to serve, truly honored.

- Joyce Preston

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