Congrats to Teresa Joanning Farrell for being honored as an outstanding community volunteer!
Nominating Organization: Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County
Honoree Category: Human & Community
Why Nominated: With 400,000 people at risk of hunger each month in Orange County, Second Harvest Food Bank is always looking for volunteers and, every once in a while, there is one who truly stands out. These remarkable volunteers donate their precious time to serving their community. They often bring much-needed skills that take an organization to the next level. Teresa Joanning Farrell is one of these extraordinarily dedicated people who has made a real difference.
Teresa became a member of the board of directors of the Food Distribution Center (now Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County) in 1993. As an attorney, she was mindful of her responsibility to provide pro bono legal services, and she was searching for a charity that would benefit from her deep knowledge of real estate law. She decided to explore the county’s leading hunger relief organization, Second Harvest Food Bank. Her decision was made after her first Board meeting – she knew in her heart that Second Harvest was the charity she wanted to help.
When she joined the Board, the food bank operated out of an old fruit-packing warehouse in Orange. The founder, Daniel J. Harney and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, selected that location in 1983 to feed the alarmingly large number of hungry people who came into the Society’s retail stores looking for food. By 1995, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County (as it was now called) was struggling to feed the ever-increasing numbers of hungry. The Orange facility was small, inefficient and bursting at the seams. News of closing of the El Toro Marine Base piqued the interest of Executive Director Dan Harney who dreamed of a new, bigger food bank. Teresa helped put together the application for a warehouse under the Base Closure Act in 1995.
The ensuing process was arduous, but for years Teresa worked with Second Harvest’s team to monitor the progress of the application until receiving approval from the Navy and the county in 1996. Next she tirelessly worked on the lease with the Navy and in 2005 Second Harvest was awarded a lease for one of the vacant warehouses on the base.
The warehouse was sturdy and spacious but needed to be completely remodeled to turn it into a modern, efficient food distribution center. This next phase included weekly construction meetings with consultants and contractors to plan and implement the retrofit. There were also a multitude of contracts to let and plans that needed approval. Teresa was a participant in the entire process that took the facility from bare wood beams to the impressive food distribution center unveiled at the 2007 ribbon cutting.
Still the process was not complete but with unflagging optimism and energy Teresa continued. The lease from the Navy contemplated that when certain environmental conditions were satisfied the Navy would deed the fee interest in the land, so in 2011 Teresa worked with the Navy, Second Harvest, and St. Vincent de Paul to record the deed and set up a lease between St. Vincent de Paul and Second Harvest to set the stage for the next phase of the expansion plans. In 2011, Second Harvest and St. Vincent de Paul formalized their long-standing relationship and Second Harvest was formally incorporated as a subsidiary of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Teresa helped with that process and in 2013 she worked with the Navy, St. Vincent de Paul and Second Harvest to deed the property to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, Inc. Thus, in 2013 the founder’s dream, a long journey from an application in 1995 to a recorded deed in 2013 was finally realized, resulting in the modern food distribution center from which Second Harvest is better able to serve the hungry in Orange County.
In 2013 Teresa agreed to serve as Treasurer of the Board and to become a member of the Executive Committee, as well as to continue her service on the Finance Committee. In addition, she was an inaugural member of The Harvesters, a group dedicated to supporting Second Harvest and over the past 22 years they have raised more than $6,500,000 in support of Second Harvest’s mission to end hunger.
She has coordinated harvestings with the Orange County Bar Association, her daughters’ Girl Scout Troops and for Boy Scout Troop 724. Her son’s Eagle Scout project was to plan, finance and plant a grove of citrus trees that provided fresh fruit for the hungry.
The impact of all of these efforts is hard to measure, but her efforts helped make it possible for Second Harvest to distribute the equivalent 17.6 million meals to the hungry in 2014. But, in the most important measure of all, Teresa’s countless hours of efforts ensure that more than 200,000 people will receive food each month. And that means that more children will feel the relief of the little girl who hugged her mommy’s leg after they received food and said, “Now we can eat!” That is the real legacy of Teresa Joanning Farrell’s dedication to ending hunger in Orange County.
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