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Spreading its wings

SEABOARD – People came carrying bags of clothes, bundles of canned foods, and more. The items were sorted and then stocked on shelves and racks to be displayed. The sounds of a community working together filled the room.

The grand opening of Purple Angel Foundation was held on Saturday, Jan. 19 at its location on Main Street in Seaboard. The nonprofit foundation is a new food and clothing pantry which will serve citizens of Northampton County in need.

“I think it’s very important for us to be there for the community. We grew up in this community so why not be there for them now?” said Karen Brown, co-founder of the organization.

The idea for the pantry was inspired by Brown’s mother, Carolyn Williams, who passed away from bladder cancer

Karen and Marlon Brown stand outside the building on Main Street in Seaboard which is now home to the Purple Angel Foundation. A grand opening for the new food and clothing pantry was held Jan. 19. | Photos by Holly Taylor

in 2015. One of Williams’ last requests was to donate canned goods to a food bank in lieu of flowers. With that spirit of giving in mind, Brown began working with her husband, Marlon, in order to create Purple Angel Foundation to help people in the community.

“When my wife said I think I want to do something like this, I said I’ll back you 100 percent,” Marlon explained. “It’s a dream for me to see her fulfill something she knew her mom wanted.”

“Many of the people who knew my mom knew she had a kind heart,” Brown said.

Thanks to many generous donations already, the pantry is stocked with canned goods, frozen meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, personal hygiene products, shirts, pants, shoes, hats, and other clothing accessories. Brown said they will soon also have more items including laundry detergent, kitchenware, linens, towels, and more.

She added they are not able to accept items like TVs or furniture, and they will only accept toys at Christmas time.

The pantry doesn’t have any set hours yet, but they intend to be open once a month for a while until they can work up to biweekly openings. People who wish to drop off donations can call 252-589-7777 ahead of time so someone will be available to receive the items. Families in need of food and/or clothing assistance should also call the phone number to set up an appointment time. An intake form to fill out is also available on their website at www.purpleangelfoundation.com.

The Browns currently live and work in California, but they still have a residence in Seaboard and travel back at least once a month. Brown’s father, James Williams, is helping the foundation with intake and receiving donations. He also performed a lot of the renovation work to the building before they opened up.

“Volunteers are welcome,” Brown said, urging more people to get involved. “We need volunteers for just about everything. Stocking, sorting, receiving, and assisting families with appointments to come to the pantry.”

Though the nonprofit pantry is just in its early stages, the Browns have several goals in mind for the future. A partnership with Food Bank of the Albemarle is in the works, and the Foundation would like to start a community garden to help keep the shelves stocked with fresh food. Brown said they also plan to hold upcoming events such as free CPR training classes, a career day for young adults, a prom dress drive, and a bladder cancer awareness event. Additionally, they’re in the process of planning monthly local fundraiser events.

“Everything that we raise for the pantry is 100 percent allocated to the pantry,” she emphasized.

Many who attended the grand opening celebration brought items to donate, and everyone seemed enthusiastic about the new pantry.

“This is an opportunity to work together as one and to make sure that the doors are always open,” said County Commissioner Joyce Buffaloe. “I’m thankful that it’s here. I’m thankful that Carolyn’s family has the insight to continue their mother’s work.”

Long-time Seaboard resident and current Town Commissioner Al Kwasikpui echoed those sentiments.

“That was the spirit Mrs. Carolyn Williams had. She had a giving spirit. She had a compassionate spirit,” he said.

“From the town’s perspective, we have a building that’s no longer empty. We have a building that looks good on Main Street,” Kwasikpui continued. “Now we’ve got to do our part. We’ve got to support the Foundation and just continue to do things to improve our community.”

Over and over again, the Browns expressed their gratitude to everyone—from the owner of the building who donated the space for them, to the multiple people who helped stock the shelves and spread the word.

“I’m just happy with the community response. They’ve been so good with donations and everything. We’re hoping that it is a successful pantry and that we can keep it going,” Brown said.

Purple Angel Foundation is located at 206 Main Street in Seaboard, next to the Post Office. For more information, visit their Facebook page or their website or call 252-589-7777.