Fisher humbled by MLK award

Award ceremony Jan. 18
Jan. 07, 2014 @ 04:25 PM

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said he had the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies.

Terri Fisher believes the same thing.

As executive director of Fairgrove Family Resource Center, Fisher spends her time trying to ensure that every person who walks through the doors leaves with something to eat.

Fisher’s job during the Great Recession has not been an easy one. With funding dwindling and the number of people needing assistance growing every month, Fisher and her staff are becoming experts in the art of doing more with less.

This unwavering commitment to her community earned Fisher a 2014 MLK Community Service Award from the Martin Luther King Social Action Committee. Bishop Van Johnson, pastor of Union Baptist Church, also received the award, and will be featured in a future edition of the Times. 

“I was absolutely shocked and humbled,” Fisher said. “It’s an enormous award and to be given that recognition is just wonderful. It couldn’t be done without the great group of people I work with.”

Prior to the start of the Great Recession in 2008, FFRC assisted approximately 600 people a month with food or emergency financial assistance. The nonprofit now helps more than 1,000 people, averaging 40 new clients every month.

Not only is the center assisting more people, it’s doing so with less money. FFRC no longer receives $100,000 of key state funding it desperately needs as the local economy slowly recovers.

“That’s 40 percent of our budget,” said Fisher. “The hardest we have been hit is this year because of the funding cuts. State grant funding cuts have put an enormous strain on the resource center. When we received the news that the state grant was not funded, there was probably a week where I was just devastated.”

Once the shock of such a loss lessened, Fisher and her staff refocused their efforts toward finding new sources of funding. Fisher realizes the community will play a huge role in helping her nonprofit meet the increasing demand for help.

“The reward of what we do overcomes the challenges we face,” Fisher said. “I don’t know how I’m going to make up that much money. That’s why this has got to become a community effort. We’ve got to be creative, think outside-the-box and find new ways to incorporate the whole city of Thomasville and Davidson County into the resource center.”

FFRC distributes approximately 260,000 pounds of food to more than 12,000 clients every year, and the numbers keep growing. State budget cuts have forced the nonprofit to start charging nominal fees for parenting classes it once offered for free. The ensuing trickle down effect impacts Thomasville citizens the most.

“That’s why it’s so important for the community to understand the plight of nonprofits,” said Fisher. “With the federal and state cutbacks we can get enough food to compensate the numbers that need help. We work with what we got. You have to make the best use of the resources that are available to you.”

Fisher’s ability to make do with less has not gone unnoticed by her peers.  

“Her dedication to the community really stands out,” said Sam Swaim, FFRC board chairperson. “She cares deeply for the people she works with and the people she helps, whether it be through agency resources or the parent teaching classes, whatever the case may be, she’s is dedicated to the job. There are a lot of good things you can say about her. She’s has worked hard at it for many years.”

Fisher, who started at FFRC 11 years ago, is honored to join the list of other Community Service Award winners. She and Bishop Johnson will formally receive their awards at the 13th annual MLK Awards Dinner & Oratorical contest on Jan. 18 at Rich Fork Baptist Creek.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.

Want to go?

The 13th annual MLK Awards Dinner & Oratorical contest at 6 p.m. at Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children under 12.

For ticket information, contact Miranda Bolton, Martin Luther KIng Social Action Committee executive secretary, at 476-7218.

A full schedule of events set during the 2014 Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday celebration in Thomasville is included online.