If your pantry was empty, your children hungry, your electricity cut off for nonpayment, and you saw no prospect of support, what would you do? For a decade in a rural Tennessee community, you went to a shabby building behind a church and found Laura Willis.
Running a program to help the needy, Laura discovered a world of people she never knew: the lonely and unemployed, chronically poor families, and middle-class folks surprised to be struggling in a great recession. And to each, she offered a bag of groceries, a compassionate ear, and a heart of love.
Taking a tiny food pantry and watching it grow to feed hundreds, Laura learned about her own hunger for God and began to discern her own spiritual directions, learning how her calling card—a bag of groceries—could be a gift to others and to herself of abundance and grace.
Laura Lapins Willis has been observing people and writing about them since she was 8 years old. She began her career as a journalist, but then moved into the nonprofit world to make a difference in people’s lives. Willis has served in a variety of influential roles, including helping found an environmental group in Washington, DC, and work as grant writer and fund-raiser for the University of the South. She and her husband have two sons, and live in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she is known for her work at the Community Action Committee as a community organizer and advocate.