By Stephen Smoot
On a (relatively) warm January day last week, the Franklin based Christian Assistance Network (or C.A.N.) held its yearly recap meeting.
This organization serves the county by taking in food donations from a variety of sources both large and small. Food then gets distributed through their facility next door to Pendleton County Middle/High School.
Pastor Debbie Beam, who recently moved to the area from Greenbrier County, led the prayer to start the meeting. She said, “We thank You Lord for all the blessings You have given us.”
Then Carol Windett, acting president of C.A.N., said, “Welcome to all of you.”
Seventeen board members, volunteers, and others attended the meeting and all were asked to introduce themselves. Pastor Beam shared that she served for 40 years in the education field in her home county and now serves with the Presbyterian churches in Franklin and Ruddle.
When her turn came up to introduce herself, long time member Eve Firor discussed the history of the organization. She talked about when C.A.N. first moved to its current building, which she described as a “derelict building” owned by Pendleton County Schools. They made an agreement with the school system to renovate the structure, use one part of it as a food bank and allow the rest to be used as storage.
Pendleton County Schools accepts $10 per year as a lease on the property. The board of education just this month approved another year’s lease at the same rate.
Firor shared stories of how volunteers flocked to wash down and spruce up the building, which had layers of soot on the interior from years of use of a coal fired heating system.
“That’s the way C.A.N. is,” Firor said. “They (helpers) just show up when you need them.”
First, the board heard the treasurer’s report. Sheila Davis gave a precise accounting of the finances, including noting a deposit from the James Simpson Trust in the amount of $14,992.86. Simpson remains a mystery to the board despite the large sum that he willed to them on his death.
Davis explained that “he had been from Pendleton County, but he moved away. He thought C.A.N. was a wonderful thing and he wanted to support it”.
Firor noted that “he’s been gone from here years and years and years.”
The next order of business lay in selecting a slate of officers for 2024. Board members agreed to approve it “as a chunk,” or simultaneously. When presented with the list of officers, including Pastor Beam as the new president, Windett returning to her role as vice president, Davis remaining treasurer, and Sherry Crigler staying on as secretary, the board voted unanimously in favor.
Shirley Shank spoke up and suggested that the board discuss either naming an executive director or allowing Beam as president to assume the duties of that office. Presidents of boards generally run meetings while executive directors represent the organization and handle day to day responsibilities. Firor had served in that position for years, but recently those duties were split among different volunteers.
Shank said that those duties would include working with the press, representing C.A.N. at community meetings, including the school board, and other tasks. She added praise of the Pendleton County School board for running meetings “like clockwork.”
Beam responded that “I’d be perfectly comfortable doing that.”
The board then heard from Edna Mullenax who represented Eastern Action and came to share information about the Family Support Center that opened in December. Before she started, Beam asked that if a person in need received their allotment of food from C.A.N., but still faced problems, could they turn to the Family Support Center.
Mullenax answered in the affirmative, then started her presentation.
The center welcomes families from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during business days and often schedules evening activities at the center or with partners in the community, such as the Pendleton County Library. It connects struggling families with vital resources while providing a safe space for them to ask questions, learn skills, or sometimes simply vent about the frustrations of day-to-day life.
Mullenax shared that two high schoolers had joined the center’s advisory committee. She said they got “great input from these young people.”
Beam, who officially assumed the presidency after the meeting, said that the ministerial association is “also available to help them if they have a need outside of food.”
The next meeting will take place Jan. 23, 2025.