Nonprofit series: Eagle’s Wings brings compassion to the table

Published 3:01 pm Thursday, November 26, 2015

As the only food pantry in Beaufort County, Eagle’s Wings has continued its mission of serving those in need, feeding approximately 500 families per month in the county.

The pantry relies solely on donations from businesses and private citizens, as well as grant monies, and its budget, annually, is just shy of a quarter million dollars, according to Ann Marie Montague, Eagle’s Wings director.

“If we didn’t get those donations and grants, we wouldn’t be here,” Montague said. “We would be a food closet. Because of the size, that’s why we can serve this many families.”

Montague said Tuesdays are when the action happens at the pantry. Area residents come in and are given food based on their needs, and in most cases, clients walk out with anywhere from 70-100 pounds of food for their family.

Last week alone, the nonprofit served about 120 families just in the pantry. That number doesn’t include the outreach it has in the community, including in outlying areas, Montague said.

Eagle’s Wings hands out 84 backpack meals to students each weekend and delivers to 80 homebound residents, as well as a mobile food pantry that travels to Aurora and Chocowinity to feed the hungry.

“We kind of have tentacles out in the community when and where we can,” Montague said.

It’s not as simple as handing out food, however. The pantry does a lot behind the scenes in preparation for its clients’ visits each week. Last year, it logged 14,000 volunteer hours, a number that reflects the mass amount of time put in to help put an end to Beaufort County’s hunger. One in four people go to bed hungry in the county, a fraction that is greater than the national average of one in five, Montague said.

From making deliveries, to repackaging food donated by Walmart and two Food Lions in Washington, to sorting food, and being on hand to greet and pass out food to clients, the more than 100 regular volunteers are a huge component of Eagle’s Wings’ outreach, Montague said.

“It’s quite an assembly line of work that we get done,” Montague said. “(The volunteers) have different jobs that they do. Every one is important. It’s all a part of a big jigsaw puzzle. That’s what makes us as big and strong in the community and able to do as much as we do. And it’s amazing. We can talk about it, but when people actually come and see it in action, it makes a great impression.”

Through generous contributions from the community, the pantry is able to continue its work, and through its volunteer labor force, time and talents are shared within the mix, Montague said.

“Before I started seminary, I said my goal was to not have a church,” Montague said. “I didn’t feel I was called to do that. I did feel I was called to hands-on ministry. This is a hands-on ministry. When I talk to other staff and volunteers, you always have to have the right heart to be involved in this. We provide a listening ear to what’s happening in their lives. You have to want to be a helpful person and compassionate. We always say, ‘You can find people with different skills or teach someone particular skills, but it’s always hard to find someone with the right heart.’ We’re fortunate to be blessed with volunteers and staff that have the right heart and mindset. We feel like we’re doing what we’re supposed to do with our lives, and that’s helping each other.”

Eagle’s Wings is one of 21 nonprofits in partnership with United Way of Beaufort County. This is the first in a series of articles about nonprofits in Beaufort County.