Retired cafeteria worker named Humanitarian of the Year
Manilla Dean has been feeding people for a very long time. And she and her husband, Charles, continue to be dedicated to making sure hundreds of people have a warm meal.
Now she has earned recognition for her efforts. She was recognized this week as the city’s 2013 Humanitarian of the Year.
In the West End community, they are known as Mom and Pop to many, and if you ask them, they will tell you they have hundreds of children. The retired cafeteria manager and her husband originally helped with the English Road Baptist Church youth project, but ended up taking it over so the program would not end.
“I told our pastor that the people are not just hungry when it’s cold, but they are hungry all the time,” Dean said. “My husband said that we do not have to think about whether or not we wanted to do it. We had been praying that God would lead us to something where we can help people.”
Dean has been serving the community at West End Ministries for 12 years. What started as just a soup-and-sandwich meal has turned into a hot meal, food boxes for those who need them, and a pantry.
The 80-year-old and her husband have been known to follow bread trucks around the city in order to receive donations to feed those in need. They often have reached into their own pockets to make sure those in need had supplies they needed, included toilet paper, clothes, socks and, when needed, a restroom for a sponge bath.
“Charles and I would go out three and four days a week to pick up bread and follow the bread truck in Thomasville and High Point. They would give us the bread that they had left out of the stores,” Dean said. “We would put the bread in our freezer. We even got a freezer from Harris Teeter to keep our things in.”
Dean said the couple don’t do it for the recognition, but because it needs to be done.
“We do this because God loves us and he loves them,” Dean said. “It does not matter what situation we’re in, we are still good children and we are one family. We have to help each other. The award makes me feel undeserving. We are very humbled.”
Chris Gillespie, executive director at West End Ministries, said Dean gives up her time and holidays to take care of the community.
“She has been doing this for a long time. She looks at everyone like family,” Gillespie said. “You are not going to put anything over on her, but she will treat you just like a mother. If you come to here with a legitimate need, she will do whatever she can to help you. She is the foundation to us, and we are able to function because of it.”
Michelle Matthews, vice and acting chairwoman of the Human Relation Commission, said Dean had several letters of nomination for the award.
“She has been distinguished as someone who has selflessly served the community regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or religious affiliation. She sees each person as an important individual,” Matthews said. “From a personal perspective, this is also a woman who has had her own challenges and despite that, she has not missed a beat in terms of what she does for the community.”
Jim Summey, pastor at English Road Baptist Church, said the Deans’ built the food ministry over time.
“They have made those connections to get food and stretched those dollars. Manilla took the lead and managed it to the point that it is something that goes on every day,” Summey said. “They did not have to do it, but they did it because they wanted to, and because they care about people. To them, that was always first.”
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The High Point Human Relations Commission recognizes an individual for contributions made during the previous years that benefited traditionally oppressed individuals or groups including, but not limited to, racial and ethnic minorities, females, homosexuals and the economically disadvantaged.
Specifically not a civic leadership award, the award is presented to a person who has risen above and beyond the call of duty in furthering the cause of equality and fair treatment for all people.