Monday, June 1, 2009

Shame on me: An angel among us -- Jacki Baer

When Jacki Baer first called here a year or two ago, I thought for a few moments that she might be a con artist and a charlatan. She wasn’t asking for money for her new non-profit organization, Fields to Families (“Yeah, right – not for 10 minutes, anyhow,” I thought). She asked for advice about organizational development and program planning. When I asked what their budget was, she said, “We don’t have a budget.” (“Hah – gotcha!”, I thought, and I was about to do a 60 Minutes number on her so-called “non-profit organization”.)

Jacki is the founder of Fields To Families, a non-profit that in two years has mobilized hundreds of volunteers to glean farm fields and vendor tables at Farmers’ Markets and distribute their fresh produce to dozens of soup kitchens and other local feeding programs that had previously served mostly canned or boxed food. In year-one, Fields to Families volunteers delivered 20,000 pounds of produce in their own cars. Last year, it was over 80,000 pounds.

About Jacki saying they had no budget when she first called? They truly didn’t. Their only expense had been the money it took to file for non-profit status with the IRS, and Jacki paid that herself. Newsletters, website, gas for deliveries, communications, meeting expenses – everything was in-kind donations.

By the end of that first phone call, I was totally won over by Jacki Baer’s sincerity, friendliness and openness to suggestions. We’ve had other phone conversations since then. She has yet to ask for money.

Jacki and her late husband moved to Charleston from Albany, NY in 1989. She became a Master Gardener through Clemson training. Ten years later, she started collecting leftovers from vendor tables at Farmers’ Markets and along with a few friends, decided to organize that kind of recycling into a non-profit organization.

She describes herself as “elderly and not in the best of health”, so Jacki herself doesn’t glean. She’s the volunteer staff member who sits at her computer and by her telephone organizing, mobilizing and scheduling the entire operation. She’s humble, so to find out the truth about all that she does, you’d have to ask one of her Board members, one of her volunteers, or one of the farmers she works with. Here’s a link that takes you to a Post & Courier article with some comments by Brock White, Director of Agriculture at Boone Hall Farms.

1 comment:

Melanie Mathos said...

When I first heard about Jacki's dream, it seemed too good to be true, but since I started volunteering with the organization - I have learned that her dream is coming true - and in full force! The support of the community has been great. Thanks for sharing our story. We are also featured on as today's featured story focusing on all of the different ways the community can help end hunger.