Feeding the Spirit—with a Bold Heart
by Nina Greenplate
Photography by Jnan Marie Tierney
Beauty is usually referred to in the visual sense—an external description of someone or something. But, beauty can also be created, and take shape in the most surprising of ways. What some may have seen as too large of a problem to tackle, one individual came forward and boldly began to build beauty from ashes.
Nine years ago, Rev. Dr. Nannette Pierson moved to the Lowcountry, and saw first-hand the sadness that hunger brings. What began with feeding five families in a small community room at Sandalwood Terrace Apartments is now a dynamic initiative that feeds more than 800 families. Sandalwood Community Food Pantry was built out of compassion, dignity and straightforward love. “Fill the belly. No one is turned away. They are all family,” says Nannette. The Pantry is her gift to them, wrapped in grace and presented without judgment.
Queen’s Chapel AME on Beach City Road provides the loving space for Sandalwood’s mission, where on Tuesdays and Fridays you can see this compassion in action. In a large circle, prior to opening, Nannette shares with everyone a story, or a poem of a life lesson, or a message of comfort. Mr. Henry Jones, her friend and Pantry manager, will then pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His provision upon all who’ve gathered. Bountiful are the gifts. Donations are always welcome, sincerely appreciated and continually needed. This would include non-perishable food and drinks, gently used clothing and toys, paper products, toiletries and school supplies. Every donation, no matter the amount, is indeed a blessing.
Nannette knew who she was from a young age—a sensitive child able to recognize injustice among both her peers and adults. This trait blossomed into the tenacious individual who sees this community, and the greater world around her, as One Tribe. She received her Master’s Degree in Divinity, and Doctorate in Worship and Spirituality. Last month, Nannette was formally ordained into the African Methodist Episcopal church, and she excitedly sees this as an extension of opportunity to minister to her neighbors— to counsel, marry, baptize, and in some cases, bury those in this community she loves so much.
There is an energy about her. It’s almost palpable, especially when describing her vision for the Pantry’s future. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Nannette can’t help but be drawn into her excitement. Her dream is to build the first amphibious resilient Pantry, secure in structure, so everyone is safe and fed when the next hurricane hits. Most of those who utilize the food pantry refuse to evacuate, as was evident during Hurricane Matthew last year. More than ever, the pantry doors needed to remain open. “My desire is to serve those who hunger for food, water and a renewed spirit. Hunger hurts, and the pains deny dignity, deplete energy, and thus one’s potential,” Nanette says.
Food is the physiological foundation of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” that we all learned about in grade school. His theory is we cannot move up the pyramid to self-actualization if we are unable to fulfill the first step! All those coming to the Pantry live below poverty level. They are our brothers and sisters whose income places them in a high-risk status, including seniors, people with disabilities, the homeless and the working poor. With this in mind, and in addition to the food itself, information on nutritional health is available to all clients. A local nutritionist visits monthly to educate on appropriate food choices, explaining the dangers of excess fat, salt and sugar in common food items. A local registered nurse also offers blood pressure screenings regularly. This year, Nannette created a new program for seniors titled “Totes of Love.” It’s designed to provide clients over 60 years of age additional fresh foods, based on any diet restrictions they may have.
With nourishment comes strength. Nannette Pierson lives this strength through her dedication to feeding our neighbors. Fill the belly. Soothe the soul. Because beauty can be created when someone is bold enough to alter the scenery around her—someone with a heart of gold.
Jet Set: Nanette travels annually to Dharamsala, India, for physical and spiritual healing. She has also visited many temples in the heart of Tibet.
High Honor: Nanette sat for a 3-day teaching with the Dalai Lama at Gyuto Temple!
High Energy: She climbed snow-covered mountains on a 3-day trek in the Himalayas.
Breathe: Nannette has been a certified yoga instructor for 15 years.
Donations: Consider donating to Sandalwood Community Food Pantry via