CH@T: ‘Turkey Tuesday’ and donations highlight Chatham Outreach Alliance’s commitment to the hungry

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It’s Thanksgiving season, which means CORA — the Chatham Outreach Alliance — is working overtime to provide food to individuals and families within the community who are in need during difficult economic times.

This week, we speak with Melissa Driver Beard, CORA’s executive director, about “Turkey Tuesday” and other holiday preparations.

Driver Beard has been working in the nonprofit sector for nearly 30 years at local, state, national and international levels. After working for many years in developing countries, she made the decision to address poverty and hunger closer to home and began her work with CORA in 2019. Beard is a North Carolina native, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, a self-proclaimed “travel addict” and proud mom.

How did this summer and fall — with COVID still around — compare to last summer and fall for CORA and its staff and volunteers?

This past summer, with the exception of continuing to serve outside, was a bit more “normal.” By that, I mean service numbers were closer to pre-COVID service numbers. We averaged serving 33 families per day throughout the summer. Summers tend to be a bit slower for us; pre-COVID service numbers were close to 25 families per day.

Food price increases and supply chain issues have made it harder for many families to access food and prepare meals. What does all that mean for the 10% of Chatham residents who already faced food insecurity?

It means they should come to CORA. We have been incredibly fortunate and continue to receive significant donations of both food and funding. We were (and still are) well supplied with dry goods, shelf stable groceries, baked items, dairy, eggs, meat, and produce. We have even been able to re-institute a degree of client choice in our drive-thru.

You’ve kicked off your Holiday Food Drive. What’s taking place, and what are your biggest needs?

Yes! Mountaire is donating 100 holiday food boxes. We are able to purchase turkeys through the Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C. this year.

Turkey Tuesday — our holiday food drive at Food Lion Governors Club — was held all day on Tuesday of this week.

For those who want to donate through the holidays, our most needed items include:

• small turkeys/turkey breasts

• mini hams

• boxed stuffing/cornbread mix

• packets of gravy

• canned fruit/veggies

• pie/cookie/brownie mix

• fresh apples (please package in a separate bag to prevent damage)

How can people help?

People can help by spreading the word to those facing hunger that CORA is here for them through the pantry (10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Thursday) and Mobile Markets (in Siler City at Technology Way every fourth Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon and every second Tuesday at Nature Trail from 4-6 p.m.)

At CORA, we often get the question, “Should I donate food, or should I just write a check?” The simple answer is to do what makes you feel more connected to our mission. Both help us feed those facing food insecurity in our community.

If you prefer to shop and donate food, we just ask that you check in and see what our needs are. You can find this information on our website at Each month, we curate the food list each to match our inventory and provide families with the food they want.

Monetary donations are important too! We are able to buy food in bulk at wholesale prices, cheaper than food on sale at the grocery store. Your cash donation is going to supply more food for people in need. Also, money that is donated can go toward buying fresh food like meat, produce, dairy, and bread which are all great additions to the shelf stable foods that are donated.

Of course, we also always need volunteers. To become a volunteer at CORA, please email

It’s Thanksgiving season…what are you and your staff at CORA most thankful for?

Personally, I’m most thankful for my son. But I think I can speak for the CORA team when I say that we are thankful for the opportunity to serve our neighbors. We are also thankful for CORA’s many volunteers.

We saw what it was like during 2020 to try to run this operation without them! It was so hard — and so quiet! We’re glad to have them and the spirit they bring with them back at CORA. I think we’re thankful for each other, too. Like so many others, we all went through some trying times last year and that made us a lot closer as a team. We really rely upon one another to get things done!


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