By Meredith Willse, Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2021
This article is an excerpt from The Brunswick Beacon. Article Copyright © 2021 The Brunswick Beacon.

The New Brunswick Family Assistance community outreach director has big shoes to fill now that the last one of over seven years is leaving.

Charles Jackson, BFA’s former director of operations and outreach, resigned in early October. But he is still helping out, working remotely part time and helping new community outreach director Elle Thomas navigate her new job.

Former Holden Beach resident Jackson, 44, has worked with BFA for just over seven years. He started at first asking for help because he needed food. He was hired by BFA’s thrift store the same day he asked for help. After that, he worked his way up.

“It was truly a blessing in my life,” he said.

He recently decided to leave BFA so he can go take care of family who lives elsewhere in the state. Before leaving, he did offer up some advice to his successor, Thomas.

“Listen to your volunteers,” he said. “Listen to your community. Don’t hesitate to get out there and put yourself out there to get what the community needs.”

He said there are a lot of donors in the region who want to get out and help, but they don’t know how or where. The community outreach director is the bridge to that gap. From his time here, he said the past couple of years have been the toughest, outside of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence in 2018. “Florence was terrible,” he said. BFA executive director Stephanie Bowen said the BFA was the point of contact for most of the county’s disaster relief efforts. “There was a need,” she said. The community comes together when it needs to. Bowen said even during the pandemic, the community stepped up. “We put the needs out there,” Bowen said. She said residents came through and donated food, supplies, money, and their time. Jackson said this organization is a part of his heart and will always be near and dear to him.

“I haven’t, in the last seven years, (gotten) up to go to work,” he said, explaining BFA wasn’t work for him. He hasn’t completely left the Brunswick County private nonprofit 501(c)(3), which is observing its 40th anniversary this year. He continues his part-time remote work and

plans to volunteer for BFA whenever he is in town visiting. “This is a tough loss for BFA,” Bowen said about Jackson, who worked hard to meet the needs of those who needed help. She said he has been her right-hand person for the last six years. “And she’s my building block,” Jackson said about Bowen.

A strong team is replacing him, and they will do great, she said. But it still feels like a piece of her

heart is leaving.

 “When you work in an environment as close-knit as BFA is, you’re more than just coworkers –your family,” she said. “And Charles is a big part of that family. “Both agreed they will always stay family.

His fondest memories from working at BFA was the community coming together, the clients and the love and respect the BFA team, the board and the volunteers have for each other.

Jackson recalled when a third grader who cried when he received his first brand new pair of shoes from BFA about three years ago. He said clients really need the assistance, but they also value it. They send thank-you cards, which decorate a bulletin board in the office.

“And they just come in, hug your neck and leave,” Jackson said, adding those are the moments that make it all worth it.

They’re family, too,” Bowen replied. As for the future, Jackson doesn’t see any other kind career path.

Elle Thomas

Jackson’s replacement, 22-year-old Thomas of Leland, started about a month ago and knows she

has big shoes to fill.

 “I did work with (Charles) for about a week, and he was just a ray of sunshine,” she said. “Definitely, I realized, I have big shoes to fill.” This is her first position with BFA and her first job out of college that she enjoys.

This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.

Thomas explained she always wanted to help people. She wanted to be a doctor, but she “can’t

do blood.” She had an internship a few years ago for a nonprofit in her hometown of Raleigh,

and that’s when it clicked. She said that internship set her down the path of doing event planning and nonprofit work. She liked seeing clients happy and knowing the money was going to something important.

Thomas’s new job requires a lot of behind-the scenes paperwork to keep up with the grants and

interview potential volunteers. She interviewed her first volunteer who started last week. She said that was exciting because she hadn’t done that before.

She plans to target social media and make BFA more noticeable at least on Facebook and get out

more in the public to meet people.