Karen Cullen has served Virginians for many years, professionally through her career in social services and by her prolific lifelong community service efforts. Since 2014, Karen can most often be found serving alongside other volunteers as the Food Pantry Director at Three Chopt Presbyterian Church. Under her leadership, the food pantry has gone from serving 25 families to 3,055 individuals each month. This dramatic increase is a direct result of Karen’s hard work, both in building capacity despite shrinking budgets and increasing need, as well as her commitment to inspire, mobilize, and support an entire community of volunteers.
Karen’s innovative spirit is also credited for the pantry’s growth during the pandemic. “Through this entire process [of the pandemic], Karen has taken charge and changed the distribution to a much more efficient drive-through distribution process,” says church elder Milton Pritchett. “Karen has mobilized volunteers from the church, local neighborhoods, and other churches to help unload a USDA truck, gather food from several other sources, and prepare the pantry for guests the next day.”
The magnitude of Karen’s impact cannot be overstated. Many volunteers that work with Karen use words like transformative, significant, selfless, devoted, and heartfelt to describe their interactions with her. Others reiterate that they would not have volunteered or found community in the same way were it not for Karen’s leadership. “I am not prone to volunteering, but I’m inspired by the love Karen shows to the people the food pantry serves,” says one regular volunteer. “Because of Karen, every week we provided food to more than 160 households in a little over two hours. And because of Karen we do it with joy.”
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