Partnerships, shared missions help serve neighbors in need

August 1, 2023

When First State Community Action Agency Executive Director Bernice Edwards (pictured right with Delaware’s own President Joe Biden) joined the Food Bank of Delaware’s Board of Directors last year, she brought to the table more than five decades of experience dedicated to eliminating poverty in the community. Not to minimize her professional expertise, Edwards’ reputation is one of personal commitment and a lifestyle of service.

As part of that commitment, the agency she founded in 1965 partners with the Food Bank to provide food to those in need.

First State Community Action Agency –FSCAA — started in Sussex County in 1965, and by 1993 expanded into Kent and New Castle counties offering 21 anti-poverty programs – many partnering with other agencies – to reach children, youth, adults, and families. If there’s a need, FSCAA offers an opportunity, ranging not only from food and housing, youth cooking and gardening, literacy, re-entry from incarceration, and advocacy.

Edwards has been at the helm from the start, tirelessly juggling programs, staffing, funding, client services, partnership relations. “We’re not giving people anything but an opportunity. I love what I do; we make a difference,” she said. And she’s particularly proud of the long-term relationship with the Food Bank, dating back years before she joined the board.

“It allows FSCAA to serve people who need food,” Edwards noted, praising the shared mission and passion she’s seen in Vice President of External Relations Chad Robinson and our President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky. “That’s what we need — true partnerships to come together for the people we serve,” she added. “We want to work together.”

Citing an example of success, Edwards noted that even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, that Food Bank never closed, so the FSCAA pantry was able to provide food for families, including those who had never been in need.

And while the pandemic has passed, the effects still linger. Edwards said FSCAA has seen an uptick in need, serving over 1,000 families in Kent and Sussex counties in the past year. Out in the communities, she’s also seen an uptick in homelessness. “The blessing is that people are being served.”

Edwards remains focused on agency goals and her service as a board member. “The Food Bank of Delaware brings a lot of support to the community we serve. It helps feed the masses, but it offers a lot of other meaningful activities,” she said. “It’s different from many food banks; it helps agencies empower people. I see it every day. It’s good to have the food bank help us here at First State. The food closet allows us to give two weeks supply of food to people who are struggling so hard. I enjoy this kind of work. It’s our mission. Kids can’t learn if they are hungry. Food is an important part of humanity. It takes like-minded people, how we work together, to serve the people we serve.”

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