Carnacchio named ‘Advocate of the Needy’

FISH President Laurene Baldwin (left) and Secretary Sue Black (right) presented the certificate to C.J. Carnacchio “with deepest appreciation in recognition of his valuable contribution to Oxford/Orion FISH.”-Photo by J. Hanlon

For his coverage of Oxford-Orion Fish Food Pantry throughout his tenure at The Oxford Leader, former editor C.J. Carnacchio was given an Advocate of the Needy at FISH’s pantry, 1060 S. Lapeer Road on Jan. 9.
“On behalf of the board,” FISH President Laurene Baldwin told Carnacchio, “with great gratitude, we want to give you the Advocate of the Needy award.”
The certificate reads, “As a communicator extraordinaire helping to keep local residents, businesses and organizations aware of our neighbors facing food insecurity and the programs and opportunities available to reach out to help them.”
Established in 1973, Oxford-Orion FISH is a nonprofit food pantry providing groceries to local families and individuals in need. Every year they give Advocate of the Needy awards to individuals and organizations in the community supporting the mission of FISH.
“There are many other people who have won this award who are much more deserving over the years,” Carnacchio said. This is the second time Carnacchio has been recognized with the award. The first was in 2007, also for his coverage with The Leader.
“All I ever did was write some stories, take some photos. You guys do the real work. You guys collect the food. You guys feed the people in this community who need it. I’m honored by this.” Carnacchio said, shedding a tear.
As a fresh graduate from the University of Michigan, Carnacchio joined The Leader in May 1999. After 20 plus yearss as a reporter, then editor, at the newspaper, Carnacchio started a new job in November as Communications and Grants Manager for Oxford Township.
Over the years, Carnacchio wrote a myriad of articles about FISH. He couldn’t venture a guess as to how many. “…from every year, the postal food drive, the school backpack program, to the Thanksgiving and Christmas collections to, at least two times writing a series of articles about them switching homes, to the Angel-Fish program when they give Christmas gifts to the kids, to the community garden out on Lakeville Road. . . I mean the list goes on and on.”
“You certainly are our advocate,” said Treasurer Randy Gower. “We are very thankful for all the energy you put in promoting our organization. We look at your energy as helping us distribute 203,000 pounds of food in 2019. And we are thankful for your presence in our community.”
FISH provides food by the pound, ranging from 60-200 per month depending on family size. The exact total distributed last year was 203,862 pounds, which is 16,909 pounds more than 2018. On average, that translated to groceries for 173 households or 413 individuals a month. FISH also provided dinners to 215 families for Easter and 215 families for Thanksgiving. Through the Angel-FISH program, they gave Christmas gifts to 130 children. And 148 students received backpacks filled with school supplies in time for the new school year at the end of August.
Baldwin asked Carnacchio what he liked doing best, as editor for The Leader.
“Anytime I could report to help people and help organizations like this – that was my favorite part of the job,” he said.
Of the role journalists play in advocating for nonprofits, Carnacchio said, “Anytime journalists, particularly community journalists see there is a need for an organization in their town that needs help, it’s our job to help promote that and spread the word. . .That’s what I tried to do in 20 years at The Oxford Leader. Whenever FISH needed something, whether they had a food drive, whether they needed a new pantry, whether they needed to sell their old building, whatever they needed I tried to put the word out in the community and publicize it.”
Baldwin said they always knew when a food drive was coming up because he would call them first, asking what he could do to help.
“I also let people know what was happening at that pantry,” Carnacchio continued, “because prior to having this pantry on M-24, they were tucked away in a little church in the village, Immanuel Congregational, they were in a little pantry building in Thomas, and those were great homes, but they were out of the public view, you didn’t think about FISH because they were off to the side.”
Baldwin commended his work publicizing FISH’s efforts to sell its former building location in Thomas. A Sept. 4 article he wrote in The Leader led to interest from several contractors,
and resulted in the sale of the building in November.
“I was happy to help,” Carnacchio said. “By selling that building, that’s money that’s not going to sit in a bucket, that’s money that’s going to help FISH feed more people. They don’t need real estate, they need food, because that’s what the people need. You can’t eat a building.”
Carnacchio used the recognition as an opportunity to further advocate for the nonprofit. “Everybody should donate to FISH. Whether it’s food, whether it’s time stocking shelves, whether it’s money, whatever. This is the organization you want to help in Oxford. This isn’t going to help people you don’t know. Everything that FISH does is going to help your neighbors. . .Nobody here collects a salary. Nobody here is getting fringe benefits, no one here is driving fancy cars or taking jets around the world. These people are here because they care about other people, and that’s the most important thing. They want to make sure everybody here has a full belly and a happy heart. To me there is no organization better than FISH.”
Again, Carnacchio expressed his heartfelt thanks. “I understand why they are giving this to me and I appreciate it, but I think they are the ones that do the work because they are the real advocates of the needy because they’re in the trenches feeding the people of Oxford so they don’t go hungry.”
“Well we get so busy in the trenches that we don’t get a chance to communicate it all!” Baldwin replied.
Carnacchio said he would continue to promote the organization through his new role at the township.
FISH is always looking for volunteers to help in the pantry. For more information, visit www.oxfordorionfish.org or call 248-628-3933.

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