Long Island native Tom Falveystarted the Brown Bag Ministry in Wendell to reach out to the hungry.
Q: You started the Brown Bag Ministry four years ago in Wendell. What inspired you to bring this community outreach program to eastern Wake County?
A: Twelve years ago, St. Andrew’s Catholic Church began the Brown Bag ministry. I heard about it and wanted to participate so I would drive to Apex. I started really taking notice of the people here who could benefit from something like this. After about two years of doing this, I thought it would be great to start one here. I was inspired by the ladies in Apex who started this – I mean, this was something that they started in their kitchens and they were able to move it to the church. I went to the people at St. Eugene’s and they gave me permission to use two of their trailers. When we started out, we made 250 sandwiches a week and now we make 1,000 sandwiches and they are delivered all across eastern Wake.
Q: Where are they distributed?
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A: We take some to the Helping Hand Mission in Wendell, we take some to the Hand of God Church in Zebulon, and the Zebulon United Methodist Church – and they hand them out curbside. We also go to the apartments operated by the Housing Authority.
Q: What is in the brown bags? And how do you get the money to purchase these items?
A: We usually have a bologna and cheese sandwich, some kind of fruit-like banana, a breakfast bar, and a dessert. We used to hand out waters but people usually have access to water. We depend a lot on donations to purchase the items, and we have received a couple of grants in the past. We receive donations from all over. Every Thursday, we go to the Food Bank and pick up a few of the items.
Q: You obviously don’t have a Southern accent. Are you a newcomer?
A: No, I don’t have a Southern accent (laughing). I was born and raised on Long Island, New York. I graduated from the New York Institute and worked in the computer technology field, and later worked in the restaurant and hotel business but in 1996, I moved down here and worked for the U-Haul company. I worked for them until the economic downtown caused some lay-offs. I was fortunate to get a job as an apartment manager, so that was nice because it allowed me the freedom to also work on the Brown Bag ministry because the apartments are close to the church.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I play softball for the church softball league. I just love playing sports – football, baseball. I also enjoy riding my bike. I am also a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The members are Catholic and we do charitable work. We raise money for the Wounded Warriors and groups like that.
Q: What do you miss about Long Island? And what have you, to your surprise, grown to love here?
A: I miss the bagels. It is hard to describe how they are different up there than from down here but they just are – it is missing something. Everyone who knows me, knows that when I go home, the first place I visit is my favorite bagel place. As for down here, it took me a while to get used to the way pork is cooked with vinegar. But you know, the barbecue grew on me. I love it now. And the way people cook the butter beans and the green beans – very tasty.
Q: What makes you happy?
A: When we are at church on Saturday, making the sandwiches, we could have people from 5-85 years old helping us. Truthfully, I get the biggest kick out of watching the kids, maybe six or seven, deliver sandwiches to someone their own age. The looks on their face – the realization that everyone maybe doesn’t have the things they do – it is really inspiring. It is an experience that you never get tired of.
Correspondent Dena Coward