Joanna Moore, 6 Who Care honoree, lives her faith in action

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Joanna Moore wasn’t thinking about herself Monday, or the recent honor of being named a recipient of WCSH-TV’s 6 Who Care award.

JOANNA MOORE was one of six individuals and/or organizations honored this year by Portland’s WCSH-TV in their “6 Who Care” awards for outstanding community service.

She was way too busy for that.

Inside the gym at Naples Town Hall, over 100 of her neighbors were waiting to be fed by CrossWalk Community Outreach — and it was time to put her faith into action.

“I share this with everyone,” she said of the “6 Who Care” award, pressing two kitchen volunteers together to have their picture taken, instead of hers. “This is not a one-person outfit.”

Moore is at the center of a highly successful faith-based food ministry in Naples that has grown tremendously since its start from the back of a pickup truck in the fall of 2008. Each month, on alternate Mondays, the program serves over 300 local families and donates over 3,000 pounds of food.

At the counter, called “Kylie’s Kitchen,” a half-dozen volunteers served up hot plates of meatloaf, potatoes and corn to grateful residents, who sat down to eat at long tables festively decorated with miniature pumpkins and fall leaves. At the rear of the gym, called “The Food Basket,” more long tables were filled with fresh produce, canned goods and coolers full of frozen meat for families to take home.

The food wasn’t the only offering. A nurse from the Visiting Nurses Association was on hand giving flu shots. A social worker also showed up to sign people up for food stamps and answer questions. Donated clothing, free for the taking, lined the front wall. And in a room up the hall, Hannaford nutritionist Dona Forke was about to begin a class in healthy eating.

A HEALTHY SELFLESS SERVING — of purple coleslaw was served up Monday by “6 Who Care” award-winner Joanna Moore of Naples, one of the founders of the twice-monthly food program by CrossWalk Community Outreach. Looking on is volunteer Bill Tardiff.

Moore was a whirlwind of energy amidst it all, constantly smiling, attending to peoples’ needs. She knew that since CrossWalk began its outreach of “Giving Back to the Neighborhood,” as its sign states, each person she helps can — and often does — become a volunteer tomorrow.

“It’s pretty basic,” Moore said. “When you put your hand out to help, it comes back. That’s why I hate the word clients. I like to use the word neighbors. And it takes the involvement of the entire community to make it a success.”

It also takes organization and know-how, and Moore has those skills, after working for a decade as food pantry manager at The Root Cellar in Portland. She serves on the board of the Food Security Council for southern Maine, and has been working as an advocate on behalf of food pantries for the past 20 years. She and her husband, David, moved to Naples in 1988.

Humble beginnings

When a church friend, Mark Blankenship, started feeding people hot dogs and drinks, and giving out food from the back of his pickup truck in 2008, it was only natural for Moore to get involved. The effort started at a parking lot near the Causeway, then migrated to the Naples Village Green.

But by fall, it was getting cold. They asked Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine if they could use the gym, and a partnership was born.

Moore said Goodine has been very supportive and helpful with CrossWalk’s work. “We couldn’t have done it without him,” she said. Goodine was instrumental recently in helping the nonprofit secure a grant to buy a refrigerated van to transport the food directly from food distribution centers in Portland and Auburn. The town and CrossWalk hope to expand the program next year to more food pantries in the region.

“Having CrossWalk here and Joanna here has been an asset for the town, especially in emergency times” such as the recent hurricane, said Goodine, because food and volunteers are available on a moment’s notice to help. Even without a natural disaster, he added, more and more people are needing help in these economically-depressed times, and CrossWalk’s outreach has visibly reduced the strain on the town’s general assistance budget.

CrossWalk doesn’t base their assistance on income, but on need, knowing that many people who don’t qualify as very low income still need help. “If someone comes in and they’re humble enough to ask for help, they get it,” she said. The help is also not limited to Naples residents; folks from the surrounding towns are served as well.

Moore serves on the five-member board of CrossWalk Community Outreach with her husband David, Lindsay and Mark Clement and Christy Hafford. Since they began, their volunteer ranks have swelled to around 60 people, who help with setup and cleaning on alternate Mondays. Volunteers also help run two other CrossWalk programs — a free clothes closet and community gardens.

One of the reasons Moore’s volunteerism stood out among 6 Who Care nominees is that she always has an eye out for what more can be done, and how it can be done better, said Bria White of the Peoples Regional Opportunity Program, who nominated her for the honor.

“Somehow Joanna finds the energy to say, ‘I don’t want to just have a community that isn’t hungry, I want a community that’s healthy,’” White said. “That’s why you see community gardens and healthy cooking classes and blood pressure screenings. That all comes from Joanna’s heart.”

Moore and her volunteers have started three community garden beds beside the nearby Singer Center, a grange hall, and a fourth behind Naples Town Hall. She is looking ahead to next year, and has approached some local groups to help maintain the gardens.

“We go out of our way to provide healthy food for our community. Many people have diseases or they’re sick, or they can’t afford fresh food. The cheapest food is usually the processed food,” Moore said. She has personally arranged with several local farmers, including Mark Rutland of River Run Farm, to provide surplus produce, and is ready to get in her car at the drop of a hat if someone calls saying they have fresh food to donate. That was how she was able to provide 10 boxes of broccoli for the Food Basket on Monday (“Take all you want,” a sign said), along with three boxes of apples.

“She’s very meticulous and very particular about the quality of product she puts out. If it’s something she wouldn’t put out on her own plate, she wouldn’t put it out for them. And I respect her a lot for that,” Rutland said.

Moore knows that people can never achieve their highest potential if their basic needs aren’t met. “That’s scientific, as well as what the good Lord said,” she said.

Moore feels blessed to be part of a community effort that will, later this month, feed an expected 75 Thanksgiving diners, with all the fixings. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the meal, which begins at noon. Advance registrations are required by calling 615-3226 by Nov. 17.

Along with the 20-25 hours she spends involved with CrossWalk (she also writes grants), Moore works part-time helping homeless teens at the Preble Street shelter in Portland. How does she find the time?

“I have a great support system, and my husband is the wind beneath my wings,” Moore said. Everyone on the CrossWalk board gets along great, too. “We all have the same heart about things. We all realize it takes the involvement of the entire community to make it a success.”

What being among the 6 Who Care means more than anything else to Moore, is that it gives her a chance to show what a small, rural community with limited resources can do to fight hunger by working together.

“I’m very happy to see that somebody sees we have a great community in Naples.”

Moore and the other 6 Who Care winners were honored at an Oct. 17 awards banquet, and a half-hour special highlighting their service will air on WCSH-TV’s Channel 6 on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m.

Anyone wishing to donate to CrossWalk and their mission may do so by visiting their website, www.crosswalkcommunityoutreach.com

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