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Retired Buncombe Co. teacher finds calling in fight against hunger

Our Person Of the Week is Jan Ianniello, who first began volunteering for Manna Food Bank back in the '90s. (Photo credit: John Le, WLOS)

A former Enka High School teacher is dedicated to making sure hundreds of people in Candler have food on the table.

Our Person Of the Week is Jan Ianniello, who first began volunteering for MANNA FoodBank back in the '90s.

Her message is loud and clear.

"You guys know I don't need a microphone," she joked to a crowd at Montmorenci United Methodist. "They can hear me over there."

Jan's booming voice belies her soft heart.

"I love you guys! I love you all," she said. "All right, let's get this show on the road!"

Every Thursday, she organizes a community market stocked with items from MANNA, Ingles and Food Lion. It's between noon and 2 p.m. each Thursday.

"You must take a box of donuts!" she instructed folks as they look at the vast amount of bread, meat, produce, and even dessert. "Do not leave here without taking donuts!"

"This is my favorite day of the week!" she declared.

Ianniello reminds us that a job description doesn't define your entire life. Even so, the ex-teacher still has a few lessons.

"If you take a knife and chop these up with some onions and cilantro," she suggests to the crowd. "You've got an awesome salsa! "

At this weekly venue, they give away up to 3000 pounds of food a week.

It's enough to feed about 90 families, which adds up to hundreds of people.

"When we first started doing this, I looked at the numbers and thought, 'Wow, this reaches a lot of families."

Jan said about a third of the people who rely on the food are Spanish-speaking. She reaches out to everyone in need with an international language.

"We're friends. We care about each other," she said. "We share this food."

That genuine sense of satisfaction now comes with the territory.

"It's good that it's evolved," Jan said. "This understanding that we need to be able to talk to each other."

Along with the food market, she is the driving force behind a community meal each Monday night from 6-7 p.m. at the church, which is at 89 Old Candler Road.

George Frady nominated Jan for New 13's Person of the Week. He's among the people who now rely on the food distribution.

"What time she's not here, she's at Manna volunteering," Frady explained. "She and her husband, Steve, they volunteer like mad."

"She's a doll. We love her," Frady gushed. "And she's always looking to improve the community."

"Well, I love George," Jan said, touched by the nomination.

"I'm an old school teacher, and I gave up that career," Jan explained. "And I guess God had a different one waiting for me."

In retirement, Jan makes her voice heard in the fight against hunger.

"This is what God's grace is about," she said.

"Help yourself, take whatever you need!" she told people gathered at Montmorenci Church. "Share them with your neighbors. Donuts need to go home!"

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