Updated: Jan 29
Today, Second Harvest Food Bank says goodbye to CEO Clyde Fitzgerald as he packs up his office and heads out our doors toward his well-earned retirement.
We are grateful for the incredible community that surrounds and supports Second Harvest and for the outpouring of love and recognition for Clyde. In recent months, Clyde has been reminded of what we already knew: He is a respected, even beloved, leader and champion of our communities. At a recent community gathering, Clyde was honored by N.C Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler by being acknowledged with the Ambassador of Agriculture Award. Numerous letters from members of Congress and the NC General Assembly have streamed in, and Clyde was gifted a flag that was flown over the Capital by Senator Burr. Finally, Governor Cooper bestowed on Clyde the highest award in our state— The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society—to the cheers of supporters, volunteers and staff of Second Harvest.
My long-planned retirement from Second Harvest is now here and I welcome the opportunity to share some departing thoughts with you.
It has been a privilege to have been associated with Second Harvest for all 36 years of its service to date to the people of Northwest North Carolina.
It was an honor to serve the first 26 years as a community advocate, volunteer, fundraiser and board member, with three terms as board chair. In 2008, when Nan Holbrook Griswold, my dear friend, godmother of one of our daughters and our food bank’s founding Executive Director, had to retire for health reasons, I was humbled to be asked by my colleagues on the board to assume the role of Chief Executive Officer and to lead our food bank into a challenging future.
It has been an unparalleled honor for me to lead our food bank for the last 10 years. My heart, soul and mind have been touched profoundly and forever. My deep-rooted faith has taught me that helping neighbors in need is a moral obligation and an awesome responsibility.
Second Harvest Food Bank’s vision is one of healthy and hunger-free communities. Our mission is to provide food assistance through our dedicated network of partners while we educate and engage our communities in the elimination of hunger and its causes. We seek to help our neighbors who need food assistance today and to provide support as they work to gain self-sufficiency in meeting their basic needs.
Your on-going support and partnership is essential.
I want to express my deep appreciation and that of a grateful community to Nan Griswold for the solid foundation she created upon which all who have followed her have been able to build.
During my tenure at Second Harvest, I’ve been blessed to serve with a phenomenally talented team of passionate professionals. Their dedication, compassion, creativity, leadership and perseverance have always been an inspiration to me. I am going to miss seeing them every day.
And I want to share that my successor as CEO, Eric Aft, is the right person to lead our food bank into its exciting and challenging future. After a comprehensive national search, the board and leadership team of Second Harvest chose a very talented, knowledgeable and experienced local leader to assume the reins of leadership. Eric has my full support and that of our board and staff. I know he will have yours, as well.
One of my greatest joys working at Second Harvest has been bearing witness to the incredible generosity of our community. Every gift of support to our organization is a vote for the type of community we want to be.
Many of you have asked me, “Clyde, when you retire, are you going to stop asking me for donations of food and money?”
Well, don’t count on it.
The work of Second Harvest is as important now as ever. In retirement, I’m giving up a title, but I’ll never give up my passion for Second Harvest’s mission of feeding our community…especially the children… and helping our neighbors become self-sufficient.
As I have said many times: it is always the right time to help someone in need.