Loaves and Fishes welcomes new executive director

Lydia Kelley, new executive director of Loaves & Fishes of Northwest Oklahoma, pauses inside the food resource center's pantry Thursday, May 30, 2019. (Bonnie Vculek / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — Loaves & Fishes of Northwest Okla­homa welcomed a new executive director this week with the arrival of Lydia Kelley.

Kelley started her new position at Loaves & Fishes on Tuesday, filling the post former executive director Carrie Sanders vacated last month to take the director's job at YWCA Enid.

Originally from Austin, Texas, Kelley said she and her husband, Clayton, and their two sons, Crawford, 4, and Cooper, 1, have felt welcomed by the Enid community and are getting settled into their new home.

Kelley graduated from the University of Texas in 2005 and got her start in nonprofit management as a temporary office assistant at Meals on Wheels of Austin. The position there was temporary, but Kelley said she discovered her desire to help others was not.

"I discovered I was passionate about helping people," she said, "and I worked my way up."

She climbed through the ranks to serve 10 years as director of volunteer services for Meals on Wheels of Central Texas, then another two years as executive director of Meals on Wheels in Palo Pinto County, in northwest Texas.

When her husband's job moved him to Enid, to work with Oklahoma Natural Gas, Kelley said she was drawn to Loaves & Fishes' mission of serving the food insecure.

"I enjoy working in social services," she said, "and doing something where, at the end of the day, I feel like I've made a difference."

The difference Loaves & Fishes makes has grown considerably since the pantry opened its doors in October 2012.

Last year, the food resource center distributed more than 700,000 pounds of food to more than 5,500 people in need in more than 2,100 households, with the help of 386 volunteers who donated more than 8,100 hours of work, according to an annual report released in February.

Aside from the shear amount of food distributed and hours and dollars donated, Kelley said she was impressed when she learned of the pantry's client-choice model of shopping for food resources. Each client is escorted by a volunteer shopper-helper, as they shop the pantry's shelves for needed food and household items, all offered on a points system.

"This is just a really neat concept for a food pantry, and I want to contribute to the cause of helping people achieve food security," Kelley said. "I like the concept of helping people shop with dignity. It's a great way to help in the community, and I look forward to making my mark in such a great organization."

Kelley said she doesn't plan any immediate changes at Loaves & Fishes, and for now just wants to learn the operations and "continue the momentum."

"The staff are great, the board is great, and everything seems really solid right now, and I look forward to continuing that momentum," Kelley said. "I'm really excited to be here, I've been really impressed with everything I've seen so far, and I'm excited to be a part of this."

For more information and volunteer opportunities at Loaves & Fishes visit http://www.loavesandfishesnwok.org.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com. He can be reached at jneal@enidnews.com.

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