Leah Danak, other MCLI grads, make impact in S.P.

The Moore County Leadership Institute (MCLI) hopes to help those in need. Designed by the Moore County Chamber of Commerce to create community leaders, MCLI has brought a food pantry to Southern Pines. The pantry contains hygiene and nonperishable items.

Leah Danak, a member of the MCLI team that helped create the pantry, was thrilled to be part of the process and program.

“I just applied,” Leah said. “It sounded like a great way to learn more about the town I’m from.”

Originally from the area — where she graduated from Pinecrest High School — Leah came back to her hometown from Jacksonville, Fla., a couple of years ago. A resident of Carthage, she received an undergraduate degree from East Carolina University. She later obtained a master’s degree at Auburn.

Leah, along with other members of the class of 2022-23, including Chris Beasley, Donna Outen, Gale Thurman, Jared Little, Jennifer Campbell, Lynette RauvolaBouta, Robert Frick and Savannah Johnson, recently graduated from MCLI.

Part of their program involved a project. The group decided to install the pantry for people without homes and others in need to fulfill the assignment.

“You are split into two teams,” Leah said. “Our team was made up of nine professionals. It was a very diverse group. Everyone brought a lot to the table.”

Deciding upon a pantry was a product of the group dynamic.

“The idea basically just occurred through a brainstorm,” Leah said. “But we’ve been working on it for a few months now.”

The pantry, installed just days before our conversation, is in front of the TEAM WORKZ building in Southern Pines. Cliff Brown, the founder and director of TEAM WORKZ, an organization helping the unhoused, played an important role in bringing the team’s plan to fruition.

“He has a great history of reaching out,” Leah, who works for a mortgage company, The Meredith Bolton Team, said. “We went all over town. Cliff took that leap of faith. It allows him to carry out his mission 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Builders FirstSource donated all building materials for the pantry.

The community’s urged to make donations to keep stock for the pantry’s availability. Those needing products shouldn’t be shy about visiting.

“They’re welcome to it anytime,” Leah said. “We are encouraging people to utilize it.”

Increasing awareness about not only the pantry but about the struggles county residents may endure is key.

“A lot of employers don’t realize that some of their own employees may be hungry,” Leah said.

Having graduated from MCLI is a source of pride for Leah. Being associated with the Moore County Chamber provides an added sense of accomplishment.

“My company is a member of the chamber,” she said. “Now, I’m part of what the chamber does. They’re so immersed in the community.”

For more information on the Moore Country Chamber of Commerce and MCLI, go to https://www.moorecountychamber.com.

To learn about TEAM WORKZ, visit https://teamworkz.org

To utilize or make donations to the pantry, TEAM WORKZ is located at 152 S. Stephens in Southern Pines.

Feature photo: Community leaders gather at the newly built pantry in front of TEAM WORKZ in Southern Pines — contributed photo.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Dave Lukow.

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