Thompson at the table brings more than himself to Food Bank mission

February 11, 2019

Service on a board of directors – whether corporate or non-profit organization –  requires not only time, but also a serious commitment to the organization’s vision and mission. The Food Bank of Delaware gained all this and more when Steve Thompson joined our board of directors in August, 2016.

Thompson, a Chesapeake Utilities executive, brings more than his corporate skills, keen intellect, and affable personality to the table. His wife, Shelly, also is 100 percent dedicated to supporting the Food Bank as well, and in addition, Chesapeake Utilities staff volunteers and provides hands-on service for many distributions, including Thanksgiving for All.

That service means Chesapeake folks lend a helping hand in challenging weather by using skills, such as traffic control or lifting boxes, to help food-insecure Delawareans.

In addition to sitting in the board room, Thompson is hands-on as well.

Why?

“One of the reasons I seriously considered the board is because of the Food Bank staff. The entire team understood the mission. Initially, I saw that in Milford, but the whole staff is really passionate about the mission. If I hadn’t had that experience, if I hadn’t seen how engaged the whole team and staff is, I may not have accepted the invitation to join the board,” Thompson said.

Chad Robinson, the Food Bank’s Community Relations Manager, is quick to note that Shelly Thompson is as engaged – in her own way – as her husband. Having experience as a state of Delaware social worker, Shelly describes herself as a compassionate person.

“Nothing is more basic than food. Everybody needs to eat, and I saw it first hand,” she said.

Her husband agrees.

“It’s really disheartening to see food insecurity in this country,” he said, noting that during the recent federal government shutdown, customer care representatives at Chesapeake  were also working with people seeking payment plans for their energy bills.

Steve Thompson said he also likes that the Food Bank of Delaware does more than simply provide food. “They offer long-term solutions. The Culinary School’s value became very apparent. You need life skills to set you on a path,” he added.

The Thompsons support The Culinary School and its students at the Milford site in a unique way: they invite the students to dinner at their home four times a year.

Shelly’s reputation as a great cook precedes her, and she prepares a meal for a class that’s about to graduate to celebrate their tremendous accomplishment.

“It’s really neat to hear comments from the students. They say ‘I never had anybody in my corner.’, and then they met chefs Tim and Tish. (Chefs Tim and Tish are the Food Bank’s chef instructors.) That part really speaks to me,” she said.

“People want a hand-up more than a handout. And really, everybody needs help some time.”

Robinson says dinner at the Thompsons is an important experience to the students, many of whom have experienced poverty and challenging childhoods. “You bring heart,” he said.

The Thompsons, high school sweethearts from upstate New York, grew up in working-class homes; Steve Thompson was one of 10 children who grew up on a dairy farm.

“Everybody has a story, a struggle,” Shelly said. “We are aligned, value-wise.” With that in mind, they also hosted a fund-raiser for the Food Bank 100 guests at their home.

The Thompsons say they feel they are fortunate and have an obligation to give back, and quoting Winston Churchill about “making a life by what we give,” Steve encourages his co-workers at Chesapeake to serve.

“When we work a mobile pantry in our service territory, we have an opportunity to also help our energy customers, and that’s important.”

Steve Thompson also serves on the board of the Nature Conservancy, and Shelly Thompson supports and participates in Lunch with a Purpose, a monthly event that benefits the Food Bank of Delaware.

Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about the Food Bank’s mission and programs.

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