LOWELL -- At the heart of any food bank or food pantry is a team of devoted volunteers who stock shelves, collect and deliver food, or assist clients.
Other key players might be less present for those day-to-day functions, yet the message they deliver and the example they set inspire others to take on the challenge of putting food on the tables of those who are struggling in today's economy.
Jacqueline Moloney, executive vice chancellor at University of Massachusetts, Lowell, fits perfectly into the second category -- and she does so in a way that is quiet, yet powerful.
Her outreach to those in need is quiet enough that Moloney humbly gives credit to others when it comes to helping the Merrimack Valley Food Bank in their effort to help others.
"The food bank is such an amazing organization," she said, adding that she was overwhelmed at hearing the number of people and communities served by MVFB.
"It's the people who are on the board and the volunteers who are the heroes and heroines," she said, adding that the staff and especially executive director Amy Pessia, give their "heart and soul to that organization."
She also credits UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan and other mentors in the Greater Lowell community, especially those in the generation before her, for inspiring her with their own philanthropy and efforts to build the community.
Yet, it is Moloney who will be honored on Monday, Sept. 8, at the Merrimack Valley Food Bank's 21st Annual Golf Scramble and dinner at Indian Ridge Country Club in Andover.
According to Pessia, there are many good reasons for honoring Moloney, UMass Lowell alumna, mother of two daughters, grandmother of four and the first woman to serve in the role of vice chancellor at the university.
"Jacquie has created a culture among the students, faculty and staff that encourages merging with the community," Pessia said. "We at the food bank have benefited tremendously over the years from that culture."
Student interns from multiple disciplines at UMass Lowell have helped with grant writing, communications, food drives, research, food safety and video production. A team of engineering students even chose the food bank as a project by analyzing the structure in terms of heat transfer. Their recommendation to add two walls was implemented and, as a result, heat is now retained in the winter and kept out in the summer, Pessia said.
"This is all thanks to the culture that Jacquie has fostered. Not only has she helped to build a world-class academic institution, it's also one that is making strides in improving the lives of our neighbors," Pessia said.
Though Moloney says she was surprised at the honor, her passion for making a difference and encouraging UMass Lowell students to do the same is crystal clear as she discusses the university's focus on community engagement.
"Making a difference" has become the hallmark of the university, she said, adding that their goal is to encourage the students "to make the world a better place."
In fact, Moloney is co-founder of the university's DifferenceMaker program, an initiative that is giving the students even more encouragement to make the world a better place through innovative and entrepreneurial actions.
That happens to include addressing the concern of food scarcity. The most recent DifferenceMaker award winners, a team called S.O.S. (Support Our Students), uncovered and solved the problem of food scarcity among college students who struggle with rising costs and fees, leaving little for food.
"They helped us as a university to understand that there are college students living on the edge," she said. "I picture this developing into a national model."
Before that happens, someone who clearly deserves an award of her own will receive one at a fun and upbeat event in Andover. And that makes Amy Pessia very happy.
"Jacqui is a well-respected and modest, remarkable woman," Pessia said. "We are so honored to be honoring her this September; and through that, we will be able to continue our programs."
As for Moloney, who has worked at the university for 28 years and as executive vice chancellor since 2007, she's happy to oblige if it helps the food bank.
"The food bank helps so many people, including all the local food pantries. It's really inspiring to see so many people who want to help them," Moloney said. "But you know how it is with that type of work: you always get back much more than you give."
What: The Merrimack Valley Food Bank's 21st Annual Golf Scramble and dinner
When: Monday, Sept. 8
Where: Indian Ridge Country Club, 79 Lovejoy Road Andover
Details: The afternoon flight is sold out; the morning flight, beginning at 7 a.m., is still open. The day includes 18 holes of golf with cart, luncheon buffet, use of the Indian Ridge practice areas, clubhouse and locker room, buffet dinner and gift, as well as a raffle. Tickets, $225 per golfer, $900 per foursome, dinner only (6:30 p.m.), $50. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. For information, contact Debbie Callery at 978-454-7272 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To register, visit www.mvfb.org.