A Friday afternoon Founders Day ceremony brought together volunteers and supporters to honor Jeri Redman, one of four founding members of SERVE, Inc., a Stafford-based food bank and community resource center.
“I didn’t expect Founders Day to be so wonderful,” Redman said.
SERVES executive director Brian Gillespie said that in addition to being one of the organization’s original founding members, Redman continues to be the longest serving volunteer at the pantry. He said Redman, 85, still remains active in multiple roles.
“Jeri is still a board member and until COVID she was spending upwards of 10-20 hours a week at the center,” Gillespie said.
Redman, a former social worker, helped form with three local pastors the current ‘SERVE House’, located at 15 Upton Lane since 1998. She said the organization was set up to feed needy families in the area and provide other emergency assistance to residents. in difficult times, such as helping them pay utility bills, housing costs or prescription drugs. Redman said that since its inception, the regional food pantry has helped thousands of families in Stafford and beyond.
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“As time went on, the requests for help increased, naturally our funds decreased,” Redman said. “But I was anchored in the faith thanks to God, who blessed us immensely.”
Mike Haas, who has been a SERVE volunteer for 17 months, said when he first met Redman he knew his heart and soul were deeply invested in the organization.
“Geri never takes credit for herself, she is so sincere and genuine in her desire for SERVE to care for the residents of Stafford County,” Haas said. “I know she is very proud of where SERVE has grown and what SERVE seeks to do in the future.”
Redman said she was surprised by all the preparation for Friday’s ceremony, which was hosted by Crystal Harmon, chair of the SERVE board of directors. The ceremony began with Gillespie leading Redmond down a red carpet to an oversized white wingback chair, reserved just for her, next to a catwalk.
“It’s never happened to me before,” Redman said.
Looking back on SERVE’s history, Redman told the gathering of staff, volunteers, friends and local leaders that the organization’s biggest challenge in recent years has been the coronavirus pandemic, but she has said even that roadblock didn’t slow SERVE’s pace.
“Fortunately, the government provided assistance, which was a plus for SERVE at the time,” Redman said. “When assistance stopped, emergency requests doubled in 2021.”
Although Redman said it’s impossible to calculate the exact number of people who have received help from SERVE over the past four decades, she estimates the number to be “at least in the thousands.”
“Maybe millions, who knows?” Redman said, who was able to precisely identify the number of those who benefited from SERVE’s generosity in calendar year 2021, a year in which she said more than 296,000 pounds of food were donated. to the organization and more than 303,000 pounds of food have been delivered throughout the region to families in need of assistance.
“Churches alone donated 80,000 pounds of food,” Redman said.
Redman said 9,034 families received assistance through SERVE in 2021 and volunteers provided more than 5,100 hours. Nearly $155,000 was also provided to 200 families in the same year through an emergency utility assistance program the organization facilitates through Dominion Energy, while the organization has also prepared and distributed 350 Thanksgiving baskets.
“My hope is that I give enough credit to those who have successfully made SERVE work,” Redman said. “SERVE is what it is today thanks to all the great people who have been involved in helping SERVE along the way.”
Several presentations were extended to Redman during Friday’s ceremony, including a proclamation of SERVE on behalf of the county by Griffis–Widewater Supervisor Tinesha Allen and Aquia Supervisor Monica Gary. The old Del. Joshua Cole also presented SERVE with a proclamation on behalf of the 2021 General Assembly for the organization’s 43 years of service to the community.
Redman said Friday’s Founders Day event in her honor was something she didn’t really expect.
“I was very happy and appreciate everyone working to make this work,” Redman said. “It was wonderful to see so many people with such big hearts.”
James Scott Baron: 540/374-5438