News release from the Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana:
Avery Loses Battle with Cancer, Led Community Harvest Since 1996
(July 17, 2015) – Jane Avery, Executive Director, Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, Inc. died peacefully in her sleep Friday morning (July 17, 2015) following an 8 month battle with cancer.
The following statement was issued by Matt Bell, President, Board of Directors, Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, Inc.:
“Today, Community Harvest Food Bank lost its beloved Executive Director, Jane Avery. Under Jane’s leadership, Community Harvest Food Bank blossomed into an organization that feeds more than 21,000 people in Northeast Indiana each week. Jane was insistent each and every day that every client of Community Harvest Food Bank be treated with the utmost dignity. She believed in the worth of every individual that came in the contact with Community Harvest Food Bank, and she made that a core value of everything that happens at Community Harvest Food Bank.
Under Jane’s leadership, Community Harvest Food Bank has become a nationally acclaimed entity, and was named the national food bank of the year on 2005. As special as that honor was, it paled in comparison to the pride she had in serving this community. Jane was the epitome of a servant leader. She exemplifies the very best of Northeast Indiana and the very best of humanity.”
Avery, 62, had been on medical leave from her position following a seizure November 27, 2014 (Thanksgiving Day). Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that she had stage 4 glioblastoma brain cancer.
She is survived by her husband, Bill Hoover, and her daughters Elizabeth Mannir, Mo Jeffrey and Allison Avery. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Avery joined Community Harvest in July, 1996. She quickly became known as an innovative leader in the food bank community. In 2005, Community Harvest was recognized as the food bank of the year by Second Harvest (now Feeding America), the nation’s largest hunger relief organization.
In March, 2015, Governor Pence named Avery a Sagamore of the Wabash in recognition of her dedicated servant leadership.
Avery earned her undergraduate degree in social work from the University of St. Francis. She worked for Lutheran Hospital and Catholic Charities prior to accepting the position of Executive Director at Community Harvest.
“Jane dedicated her life to helping others and feeding hungry people, and insisted that clients be treated with dignity,” said Carmen R. Griffith, Interim Executive Director. “She was not bashful in asking others to donate food and money to advance our mission of alleviating hunger in northeast Indiana,” added Griffith.
When Avery joined the food bank in 1996, the agency budget was $800,000 and distributing 8 million pounds of food. Under her leadership, the food bank distributed nearly 13 million pounds of food with a budget of $3.3 million. More than 375 churches and nonprofit groups are member agencies of Community Harvest.
Additional accomplishments during Avery’s career at Community Harvest include:
- Creation in 2005 of the Indiana association of regional food banks (formally known as Feeding Indiana’s Hungry or FIsH);
- Creation of the first blanch and freeze operation among national food banks. Vegetables readily available in the summer will be preserved and then distributed on a year round basis. The Fort Wayne facility is to open later this summer.
- Creation of Community Cupboard in 1999. In setting up an on-site pantry at the food bank’s Tillman Road facility, Avery recreated the look and feel of a small town grocery store. Clients were given a grocery cart and permitted to select items favored by that family. The new style pantry was the first of its kind among national food banks and eventually other food banks mimicked what Avery first created in Fort Wayne.
Avery was a native of Rockford, Ohio. As a youth, she stocked shelves and served as cashier in her father’s grocery store.
About Community Harvest
Established in 1983, Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, Inc. (CHFB) is a 501c3 nonprofit feeding 21,100 people every week. Last year, CHFB distributed nearly 12.5 million pounds of food to more than 90,000 unique individuals. Community Harvest is one of 202 regional food banks in the United States; there are 11 regional food banks in Indiana. Carmen R. Griffith is the interim Executive Director. Matt Bell, Principal, Catalyst Public Affairs Group serves as president of the Board of Directors.