Hometown Hero: Charmetra Bailey

If you see a person with a big smile when you enter the Mason Food Pantry, chances are it is Charmetra Bailey. Charmetra felt the need to find purposeful work that combined her passion for people and her natural gifting for hands on engagement. She says, “Most of my background has been at a hospital in different administrative roles. I did enjoy that job, and it taught me a lot, but the last couple years in that position, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. So in my women’s Bible study group I kept having people pray ‘what is my purpose’ because I didn’t feel like I was just supposed to be sitting at a desk. I’m more of a hands-on person.”

She began doing part time administrative work for the Mason Food Pantry (Mason Food Pantry), and shortly moved from part to full time to her current role as the Director of Operations. She says, “So I joined full time with no experience in the nonprofit world, no experience as an associate director or director or an inventory control person. And I do all of those jobs. Once I came in, it was like a sigh of relief. I felt like I can be involved with people and see that I’m making a difference instead of punching numbers. And there’s nothing wrong with people that do that. It did help me with a lot of things that go on such as paperwork, budgets, dealing with contractors when we did the renovations. So I’m very thankful for the background in the hospital. I’m just happy that I’m now in a role where I can see what I’m doing.”

COVID-19 presented special challenges for the food pantry, and Charmetra gives a lot of the credit to her volunteers. She comments, “This last year has been really trying for a lot of people. I’m happy we were able to stay open. We didn’t really have the manpower to do it but I prayed on it because a lot of my volunteers are in the vulnerable age bracket 60 and up. Many of the other food pantries have a lot of manpower. Here there are only about 92 of us which sounds like a lot, but these nice people also have their own families. A lot of them are retired. So some days we would be open with just a couple of people. I’m just thankful we were able to stay open during all of the chaos and help the people we did help. I’m proud of our team for that.”

She concludes, “I want every shopper to feel welcome when they come in. I know they probably are going through things and are feeling discouraged. We try to encourage them and welcome them and thank them for coming in. I try to start a conversation with them because there might be a resource that we don’t provide but can give a referral to help them even further. A lot of times people feel ashamed. They say ‘I won’t be here again’, but it’s not about that. It’s about helping them at whatever moment they are in at that point in life. We don’t want to judge anybody. I’m a single mom so I know how it is as far as budget. I know how it is to sacrifice food for yourself so your kids can eat. We want to make them feel seen and not just a number. I don’t push faith on them, but if they ask me, I’ll tell them or pray for them if they’re going through something. Just to let them know that everybody needs help once in their lives or a couple of times, and we don’t judge them for that. I’m happy that I can give them the resources they need and our team can do that.”