De and Ray O’Brien: Heroes Behind Fuquay-Varina Food Pantry

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De and Ray O’Brien help assist others with a delivery at the Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry.



De and Ray O’Brien returned from Carrboro one Friday evening after picking up a donated, full household’s worth of almost-new furniture and driving it back to Fuquay-Varina for a family in need. Saturday they were back at the food bank to receive donations from the post office. Besides organizing at the Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry, they typically spend off-hours this way.

The Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry helps feed families who need assistance. With the high food prices in recent months, more people have been struggling to put meals on the table. The pantry opens its doors twice a week to distribute donations, and those in need can collect groceries once a month. The organization receives donations from grants, local businesses, churches, grocery stores and individuals.

The O’Briens were volunteer firefighters before beginning their work at the food pantry, which they have done for the last 17 years. Ray serves as the organization’s treasurer, while De is the volunteer coordinator. De manages about 30 volunteers, and Ray handles the 15 truck drivers who pick up food from farms, stores and elsewhere.

De explains how they started. “I was—and still am—with the Catholic Daughters [of the Americas] at Saint Bernadette Catholic Church, and we needed a speaker. So I talked with Mary Goddard, one of the directors, and she did the speech and gave me a tour. We were new to the community. Ray and I volunteered, and the rest is history.” 

The O’Briens attribute the food pantry’s success to the Fuquay-Varina community. Smiling, Ray says, “I truly believe other people make us look good, and we love what we do.”

As we finish our conversation, a truck from the post office pulls up, filled with donations. Volunteer drivers begin unloading and getting things ready for the week. Goods will be sorted, dated and stacked. The work is continuous for these dedicated volunteers. 

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