Sister Mary Ann Czaja Honored with Hunt-Morgridge Service Award
The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina established the Hunt-Morgridge Service Award in 2010, coinciding with the Food Bank’s 30th Anniversary. This award recognizes extraordinary leadership and dedication to hunger relief efforts. With heartfelt gratitude and deep admiration for deeds sung and unsung in distinguished years of service to their fellow citizens, the Food Bank instituted the award in name of The Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr., former Governor of the State of North Carolina, and John P. Morgridge, Chairman Emeritus of Cisco.
Former recipients include Ron E. and Jeanette Doggert in 2011, Barbara Oates in 2012, the Reverend Haywood Holderness in 2013, Ashmead P. Pipkin in 2014, Jack and Mary Hofler in 2015, Ed and Ingrid Carney in 2016, and Earline Middleton in 2017.
The Hunt-Morgridge Service Award is given annually to the person or organization that exemplifies the values of those whose names it bears.
Born to an American Polish family of three boys and six girls, Mary Ann was the third of nine children raised in a Midwest country town in Wisconsin. The parents of the “nine” established a mom-and-pop meat market business in the 1940s. Each sibling was meticulously trained in serving customers and cleaning.
Mary Ann was a typical tomboy. Maturing between boys in the family and playing with mostly boys in the neighborhood led to the development of a strong, determined gal. These two characteristics remain notable, even today.
College days were inside convent walls by choice. She earned a teaching degree and became qualified to teach grades one to eight. Thirteen years of hands-on teaching created memorable moments to cherish! Home visits to student’s families bonded her with both the child and the entire core family, especially during a seven-year commitment in Harlem, New York.
Earning a master’s degree in social work led Sister to her next career. Trekking the soil of North Carolina, she coordinated parish efforts to address needs of the poor in nine counties. By 1983, Tarboro, North Carolina became home. Working for Catholic Charities allowed time to view the vast needs of rural eastern North Carolina. A spirited interdenominational group of women began to meet, pray, and discern the apparent societal aspects which were lacking in Tarboro. The year 1986 marked the beginning of sharing a pot of soup from someone’s kitchen and sandwiches being put together in the annex hall of the fire department. The hungry and homeless now had a place to gather, create community, and return home knowing they had made a difference in their own hometown. It only took a few months to realize how many men were homeless. This awareness led to the development of a Board of Directors and the creation of Tarboro Community Outreach, Inc. A new self-standing building for shelter and food programs was dedicated in 1989, three blocks from Main Street. Sister Mary Ann accepted the challenge of Executive Director and still today, she uses her energies serving those in need and running this wonderful organization. Reprinted with permission from Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina