Teresa Curtiss is the 2019 recipient of the Women of Appalachia Project Appalachian Advocate Award.(Submitted)

Winner of 2019 Appalachian Advocate Award: Teresa Curtiss

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The Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2019 Women of Appalachia Project Appalachian Advocate Award is Athens Food Rescue Executive Director Teresa Curtiss. The award is given yearly to a woman who has dedicated herself to enhancing the wellbeing of Appalachian culture, Appalachian women’s health, Appalachian families or Appalachian land issues.

The award will be presented on March 23, 2019, during the WOAP 10th Anniversary Gala, a juried presentation of poetry, story and song, showcasing twenty Appalachian spoken word women artists from seven states throughout Appalachia and thirty-five WOAP visual fine artists whose work will be on exhibit in the Multicultural Center Art Gallery. Featured guests include OHIO President Duane Nellis and musical guests The Trophy Wives. Passion Works Studios will provide decor.

Curtiss is one of the founders of Athens Food Rescue. Her group of volunteers picks up excess food from area restaurants and other sources and redistributes it to feed hundreds of people in need, including residents of Athens’ homeless and domestic-violence shelters.

According to nominator Fred Kight, Curtiss and three other women (Nanda Filkin, Sue Jago and Adele Hanson) took the initiative to try to solve two problems: food waste and hunger. Their efforts resulted in the group’s attaining non-profit status in 2015. AFR aims to bridge a gap in our food system by increasing food-waste diversion. This promotes environmental health by reducing solid waste transported to landfills and decreases food insecurity in our region by providing meals to those in need. To date, AFR has collected over 83,000 pounds of food, helping to feed about 1,000 people a week through 16 charities. The group accepts both perishable and non-perishable items.

As executive director, Curtiss supervises all efforts and recruits additional volunteers and donors. She is also in charge of AFR’s annual fundraiser, the Duck Derby. She works as a volunteer putting in 15-20 hours per week organizing shifts, connecting donors and recipients, organizing events/community outreach and completing her own food rescue shifts. She also has a full-time job.

“Help Us Help Our Neighbors is the AFR founding philosophy,” shares Michelle Stobart of Inhale Yoga and an AFR volunteer. “It is easy to see this as Teresa’s driving motivation. Her passion for the work, its service to our community, and the founding philosophy is contagious. Any time spent with Tereasa makes you want to help support and grow what she has envisioned for our community through this organization – a community where none of our neighbors go hungry, food is safe for consumption and is never thrown into the garbage.

“WOAP is proud to lift up women such as Teresa Curtiss,” says Kari Gunter-Seymour, executive director, Women of Appalachia Project, “women who often go unsung as they go about their work with passion and purpose, knowing what they do is truly for the good of all.”

The event is sponsored by the Ohio University Multicultural Center. The spoken word segment of the Gala will be held in Ohio University’s Baker Theater beginning at 6PM. Donations for Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, an organization dedicated to the healing and prevention of sexual violence in Southeast Ohio will be collected throughout the evening. A reception will be held in the Multicultural Center Art Gallery immediately following the presentation of the award. Wine and hor d’oeuvres will be served including savory treats provided by Dr. May’s Thai’s Kitchen.