CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – One of our Remarkable Women finalists has spent 50 years serving others.
Most recently heading one of the largest organizations in the Lowcountry, ensuring hundreds of thousands of people don’t have to fear over where their next meal will come from.
For the last nine years, the Lowcountry Food Bank has been a top priority for Pat Walker. It’s a place where her hard work and passion collide.
Walker served as a schoolteacher for 30 years before volunteering for East Cooper Meals on Wheels.
“One day I was asked to deliver food, and that just changed my world,” she noted. “I don’t think I knew how many food-insecure people there were.”
What she thought would be some volunteer hours quickly turned into a tremendous leadership role – president and CEO of the organization.
After 10 years, she transitioned to lead the Lowcountry Food Bank.
Her approach was simple – focus on those they serve, honoring their dignity by offering health choices.
“Who are we to determine what you and your family will eat by giving you a bag of food that we have chosen. You should be able to choose,” she said.
That belief led to a total reboot of the way the Lowcountry Food Bank distributed food.
“So, we came up with a distribution model called ‘Fresh for All,’ which is literally a farmer’s market distribution where they literally choose what they want their families will eat.”
Under her leadership, the food bank increased the pounds of food distributed by more than 72%, serving over 200,000 people across 10 counties each year.
But ask Walker her greatest accomplishment and her answer is clear: “The staff that we have built at (the) Lowcountry Food Bank- they are committed, they are passionate, they want to reduce food insecurity and they are agile,” she said.
Longtime friend, philanthropist, and businesswoman, Anita Zucker, says Walker’s empathy sets her apart from other leaders.
“She is a remarkable woman. The fact that she was able to maintain the level of engagement and involvement, and running around the business, was phenomenal. It takes a lot a lot of strength and a lot of energy to do the work that she did,” said Zucker.
A remarkable woman, spending time out of her life to support the lives of others for more than 50 years.
“I am humbled, and I am honored,” she said.
Walker announced her retirement as president and CEO in February of last year. A month later, that need for food assistance was at an all-time high because of the pandemic.
She set aside her plans to focus on crisis relief- refusing to walk away from the growing number of people who did not know where their next meal would come from.
Walker said the pandemic was by far the greatest challenge she faced as a leader. She officially retired this month.