Dozens of volunteers with Good Neighbor Ministries surprised executive director Stefani Ortman with a reception Sunday, to honor her retirement after nearly three decades of service.
"We're definitely going to miss her, but she said it was time," Pam Roberts said. "She's been doing it so long and it's time for her to move closer to her children."
The gathering at St. Peter's Episcopal Church marked the first time some of the volunteers had met each other. Members of 22 local churches donate money and time to the nonprofit, which helps people with utility and rent payments, medications, clothing, food, transportation, counseling and more.
Ortman, also a volunteer, was there from the start — heading the FISH chapter at St. Peter's that formed the base of the new coalition in 1979.
"Reaching out to the underserved, the under-recognized, the poor and the working poor of Floyd County was a big step, but the entire community came together," Pastor John Herring said. "Stefi has been behind it for 27 years as the fearless leader of Good Neighbors."
The agency at 208 E. Second St. is open each weekday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Roberts said they see anywhere from 25 to 45 people a day. In addition to handling all the referrals to Bagwell Food Pantry, they take applications for Christmas food baskets and even lend space to the Toys For Tots program.
"It's much more than a crisis ministry," Roberts said. "We have lots of things going on."
The agency, which is also a project of the Junior Service League, relies entirely on donations and help from local residents. Ortman praised the volunteers as she gave her goodbye speech.
"Good Neighbor would not exist if not for all of you," she said. "I'm going to miss all of this, but I'll miss all of you the most."
Ortman is expected be around until January, however, so she can train her replacement. Roberts, who sits on the board of directors, said they've hired Rome native Pam Clarke to run the operation on a parttime basis.
'Good Neighbor would not exist if not for all of you. I'm going to miss all of this, but I'll miss all of you the most.'