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Before Hep C Connection, Ann Jesse founded New Orleans food bank

Long before Hep C Connection, Ann Jesse (formerly Harlan) was the founding Executive Director of a New Orleans food bank called the Community Food Distribution Center (CFDC), described as one of the first programs of its kind in the US. In addition to a large central storage area, 17 distribution centers served those needing help all across the city.

She notes in an article announcing her appointment as director, “‘We hope to inspire the entire community to donate food to the CFDC food bank, businesses, organizations and individuals alike…’”

If this isn’t further demonstration of Ann’s enduring efforts to provide stellar customer service to those needing it, what is?

A 1980 article in New Orleans’ Clarion Herald details the scope of the operation: “The Food Bank is a community-wide institution designed to help people in emergency situations…Seventeen distribution centers in New Orleans and one in Gretna are the contact points for the people who need help. ‘They are referred to us by agencies, by churches, from all sorts of sources,’ said Mrs. Harlan. ‘We then refer the people to the distribution center in their own neighborhood. The centers have a small pantry on the premises, and the food there might last a week or a month, depending upon demand…This is the only centralized community-wide Food Bank in the state; there is nothing else like it in Louisiana,’ she said.”

[Left] Ann Jesse (formerly Harlan), Executive Director, Community Food Distribution Center (CFDC), aka The Food Bank, New Orleans, June, 1980 [Source: Clarion Herald]

The article continues: “The federal agencies help with drives, and the military is very good about helping pick up the food and bringing it to the warehouse after a drive,’ said Mrs. Harlan. ‘I’m trying to work now to get more church communities involved on a continuing basis in food drives.’…The food bank will serve anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people per month, but that varies tremendously.”

Her customer service legacy is further detailed on, appropriately enough, her legacy.com obituary. It points out:

“Following Ann and Henry Jesse’s return to the Denver area in 1989, Ann founded yet another organization, Providers Resource Clearinghouse, to provide services for the homeless community…She was also an advocate for refugees – Hmong, Sudanese lost boys, Somali women, Mali families and New Orleanians displaced by Hurricane Katrina; a first grade helper at the Green School; and a member of the choirs at St. John’s Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Church and the Spirituals Project…Ann will long be remembered for her wit, enthusiasm, tenacity, her love of travel, her intelligence and quest for knowledge, as well as for her service to her community and those in need (especially in under-served communities).”

If corporate America would emulate the dedication and commitment of Ann Jesse, the world—and all the customers in it—would be much better off.

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My longtime friend, Ann Jesse, recently died. Ann didn’t just practice stellar customer service, she created it. When diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the nineties, she started a national Hep C support organization to provide the help and answers she hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. The Hep C Connection grew to one of the nation’s largest and most influential support organizations in this realm. Ann’s efforts helped people across the country manage, and ultimately recover, from this devastating disease. This series of posts is dedicated to Ann Jesse’s customer service efforts on behalf of so many.

Mark Lusky

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Mark Lusky
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.

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