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Conversations with Charlotte Pilato

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charlotte Pilato.

Hi Charlotte, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
Friends of Joseph Floyd Monor has grown from a very small operation to an incredibly successful and systematic nonprofit group over the last year! I began volunteering at JFM in December of 2019 after participating in a “Secret Santa” for the residents. After dropping off my gifts, I had the pleasure of meeting several of the manor’s elderly and disabled residents.

Within 15 minutes of being there, I knew that a tremendous need existed in that building. Shortly after began the first wave of covid and the residents were basically stranded in the building with very little access to the outside world due to the shutdown. My husband and I began simply collecting donations of groceries and bringing them each Thursday morning.

Those first few Thursdays we would arrive with enough groceries each week to fill up one folding table. As people began seeing our posts and requests for donations we took off! Our core group of 5 now see each Thursday morning as such a blessing.

We are able to set up about 6 tables, full of food, personal hygiene items, and household necessities. On any given Thursday, about 10 volunteers help distribute food and we are able to provide about 75 residents with a week’s worth of groceries.

We are now a partner agency of the Lowcountry Food Bank, which allows us to provide fresh meats and produce at a very low cost to us, which helps stretch our financial donations to their maximum capacity.

We also receive generous in-kind donations from the Charleston Parks Conservancy, the Harbinger restaurant, Tricounty Ministries, Coastal Community Church, the Unitarian Church in Charleston, and many generous Charlestonians.

FoJFM sets up each Thursday morning around 10:30 am, and once the groceries are organized and set up, the residents and local neighbors in need come through the line to “shop” for the items they would like. During this time we all hang out, talk, dance, and just generally have a good time together!

Aside from providing the residents with much-needed food stability, our group has also fostered a sense of community among the residents, and some days, the friendships among us seem as important as, if not more so, than the food we are able to give.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
We have not had the smoothest road, but we have been very fortunate along the way.

It seems as though when we hit a snag- funds running low, not enough volunteers, needs that we are unable to meet- a solution somehow appears!

Be it a generous donation, a new partner agency, or a group of volunteers to step up, we have continued to prevail. Despite any struggles we have faced, we have been fortunate enough to overcome and continue to be able to serve.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
One essential part of the Friends of Joseph Floyd Manor’s core group is that we all come from a service background.

Whitney Quick (secretary), Annie Young (treasurer), and I have all at one point been school teachers while Travis Stoess and Gabe Pilato have both worked in the hospitality industry for decades.

There are many similarities between the skills needed to be an effective, successful, and happy teacher, restaurant manager, and nonprofit organizer!

I am certain that our service backgrounds have dramatically improved our ability to connect to and provide for the manor’s residents in a meaningful way.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
I have learned two very important lessons from my experience with Friends of Joseph Floyd Manor. The first is that as an individual you definitely can impact the community around you!

If you see a need, you absolutely have the capacity (and social responsibility, even) to make a positive change! The other lesson I have learned is that by helping others, you also help yourself. The relationships that I have made while volunteering with the residents of JFM have made a tremendous impact on my life.

I have gained friends, connected with other families, gotten very good advice, and have grown to love so many people through this experience. Every Thursday as I leave JFM, I think to myself, “I needed that!” and that is what inspires all of us to keep on keeping on!

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