Former Second Harvest Food Bank CEO Clyde Fitzgerald, Jr. Dies
Food Bank Family, Community Mourns the Loss of a Champion for Children,
Families, and Healthy, Hunger-free Communities for Everyone
It is with deep sadness that we share that Clyde Fitzgerald, Jr., who dedicated 36 years of service to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC, first as an advocate, board member, and board chair, and later as the organization’s CEO for nearly 10 years, passed away on Sunday, November 18, 2018.
"Clyde lived a life full of remarkable achievement but none greater than his legacy of service to our community and fellow man,” said the food bank’s board chair Michelle Butt. “I am humbled to have known him, and I know that all of us at Second Harvest, and across our 18-county partner agency network, are better for having worked alongside him to end hunger.”
“The Second Harvest Food Bank family – our staff, Board, volunteers, donors and supporters – has lost a true champion in the fight against hunger,” said Eric Aft, who rose from the role of COO to assume the helm the food bank following Clyde Fitzgerald’s retirement in June 2018. “We will honor Clyde’s legacy, as we bring the mission of the Food Bank to life each day and strive to achieve his vision, knowing that hunger is a problem that can be solved...working together in our communities.”
A former top executive at Reynolds Tobacco Company, Clyde came out of retirement in 2008 at the request of the food bank board when Nan Griswold, the organization’s founding Executive Director announced that she would be retiring.
During Clyde’s tenure at Second Harvest Food Bank, he built upon Griswold’s strong legacy of accomplishments with tenacious commitment, increasing financial and food donations, as well as volunteer support for the organization. Second Harvest Food Bank’s total food distribution through its region-wide network of local partner agencies increased from 7 million meals annually to more than 31 million meals provided annually for families who face financial hardship. Thousands of volunteers now collectively contribute more than 40,000 hours annually to support the organization’s mission.
Under Clyde’s leadership, addressing childhood hunger was a top priority, as existing and new program models were expanded and launched to provide more nutritious meals for children who need them throughout the 18 counties Second Harvest serves.
In 2015, Clyde, along with Chef Jeff Bacon, Executive Director of Second Harvest’s Providence Culinary Training program, expanded the impact of the training program by launching Providence Restaurant. The non-profit dining establishment gives graduate of the training program the opportunity to gain additional, on-the-job experience through paid Hospitality Residency positions in preparation for successful culinary careers. Not long after Clyde’s retirement, the organization celebrated the grand opening of a second non-profit eatery, commending Clyde for his visionary leadership in addressing root causes of hunger, including employment.
Fitzgerald understood that hunger and health go hand-in-hand. He prioritized sourcing increased donations of fresh fruits and produce for the organizations network of local food assistance partners and deepened relationships with the healthcare industry to bring new and greater resources to Second Harvest’s mission.
At an event held in June 2018 to honor Clyde’s leadership and the food bank’s legacy of feeding community, Clyde was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his years of exemplary service, above and beyond the call of duty, to the State of North Carolina and her people and. At the same event, Clyde was awarded the Ambassador of Agriculture Award by N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, presented with numerous letters from members of Congress and the N.C. General Assembly, and given a flag flown over the Capitol by North Carolina Senator Burr.
Clyde Fitzgerald was adamant that "hunger is a human tragedy that exists only because we as a community allow it to exist.” We will remember these words he shared often and lived by each and every day: “It’s always the right time to help somebody in need. Giving food to those in need is showing God’s love in a can.”
“We will greatly miss Clyde’s presence in our lives and in our continuing work to improve the lives of families experiencing food insecurity and make our communities better places to live,” said Aft. “We, along with so many others who were inspired by Clyde and touched by his great passion and compassion, will continue to keep Clyde, his devoted wife Carol and his children and extended family in our prayers.”
Services will be held on Monday, November 26th at 2pm at St Paul’s Episcopal Church. The Fitzgerald family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.
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About Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC
At Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC we work to put an end to hunger. We are an essential and central resource for food and support for a network of more than 460 local food assistance programs (pantries, community kitchens, shelters, and meals programs for children and seniors) serving communities throughout 18 Northwest North Carolina Counties. We address the critical connections between hunger and health, with a focus on alleviating childhood hunger, providing relevant and impactful nutrition education, advocating for programs and policies that strengthen families, and collaborating with others to build locally relevant solutions to hunger and poverty. We are a proud member of Feeding the Carolinas and Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 regional food banks working to alleviate hunger today and end hunger tomorrow. Learn more about our work and get involved at hungernwnc.org.