Change at Loaves and Fishes

Raleigh nonprofit gets new executive director.

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. [06.01.04] — Loaves and Fishes, a Raleigh nonprofit that works with at-risk children and their families, is getting a new executive director after being led for 22 years by its co-founders.

Susan Duncan, who was the group’s director of youth programs for two years and most recently has been director of marketing and project manager for Shields Commercial Mortgage and Realty in Wilmington, begins work as executive director today.

Betty Anne Ford is retiring as executive director, and co-founder Nancy Newell is retiring as program director.

The organization, which serves 40 to 50 children and about 20 families a year, has been preparing for the transition for about a year, shifting more responsibilities to the board and getting it more involved in operations and planning.

“We have not been involved in decision-making since last summer,” says Ford, who will move with Newell to Louisburg to live and work at Cedar Cross Retreat Center, although both will continue to work part-time at Loaves and Fishes for at least a year.

Modeled on a church-run summer-enrichment program in Lynchburg, Va., for inner-city students where they both worked at different times, Ford and Newell launched Loaves and Fishes with support from Westminster Presbyterian Church, which both attended.

Initially a summer enrichment program for low-income children, mainly from the Halifax Court public housing complex, and supported by the Westminster Foundation and the Presbyterian Urban Council of Raleigh, the program now is year-round, with funding from a broad range of churches, businesses, foundations, civic groups and individuals.

With an annual budget of more than $400,000 and a staff of nine people, Loaves and Fishes aims to “intervene in the lives of children who are at risk of failure, and provide the individualized and holistic academic and social support they need to be successful in their homes, schools and society,” Ford says.

While working with students after school is the core of its program, Loaves and Fishes also works to connect students’ families and teacher, and to work with families to help them help their children.

It also pairs adult volunteers with children one-on-one, and offers some programs at night.

Most children are referred to the group by Poe and Partnership elementary schools, Centennial and Moore Square middle schools, and Enloe and Southeast Raleigh high schools.

Working with the “whole child” is key to the organization, says Newell, who is training to become a spiritual director.

“One of the thing we found out was that we could remediate academic deficits, but that didn’t guarantee the child stayed in school or was successful,” she says. “Unless they see a path for themselves and have a peer group they can identify with, just having the academic skills won’t do it.”

The group is considering a new program to work with students suspended from school, as well as an apprenticeship program to prepare students for the workforce, possibly even beginning a business at Loaves and Fishes that could involve students and their parents.

“I don’t see us growing in terms of the number of kids,” Ford says, “but rather delivering more and better programs for the students we already serve.”

Since 1982, Ford and Newall have been “the heart and soul of the organization and have kept it focused on trying to meet the needs of the children as they become evident,” says Jan Ross, board president. “However the organization has grown, it’s grown because what the kids needed became evident, and they tried to meet it somehow.”

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