Erma Smith is more than a tireless advocate for the hungry. She’s also an inspiration and a role model in her determination to feed her neighbors. For 25 years, she has been active in fighting hunger, making her a natural to be named our newest Tyson Foods Hunger All-Star of the Month.
Erma began as a volunteer with the Southwest Arkansas Foodbank and then served as its executive director for many years. While there, she helped provide food regularly to 100 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and other organizations. Each year, she distributed about 1.5 million pounds of food and grocery products to the hungry. She personally secured much of the food provided, relying on the Arkansas Foodbank Network and other groups. Her food bank also distributed clothing, school supplies, household items, toys and personal care products through a program called Gifts in Kind.
Erma and her team of dedicated volunteers prepared gift baskets for those in need and also as a “thank you” to volunteer food pantry operators. Her handmade gift baskets were the most sought-after door prize at the group’s annual gathering. She retired in May of this year, reluctantly, and only because her doctor insisted. She continues, however, to make the gift baskets herself– a labor of love.
Connie Bledsoe, agency relations director for the Arkansas Foodbank Network, says Erma still comes to the agency to volunteer.
“Erma is just a kind and giving person who shares her love with everyone,” Bledsoe says.
Recently, Erma was honored by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance at a breakfast at the Governor’s Mansion. In her remarks, she noted the importance of “service for the Lord” — words that have inspired an admirable life’s work.
Bledsoe adds, “That’s her mission- serving others. I don’t think she’ll ever stop. You can depend on Erma for anything.”
Erma was given her award on October 28, 2009 at a ceremony at the Arkansas Food Bank Network, attended by Arkansas Governor, Mike Beebe, and Vicki Escarra, CEO of Feeding America. In honor of Erma’s being named Hunger All-Star of the Month, Tyson will donated a truckload of food (app. 30,000 pounds) to the Arkansas Foodbank Network in Little Rock.