Jeannie Jordan: What one can do
Bryan Jordan, chairman and CEO of First Horizon, is a lucky man. He had the good fortune to enter the world as the son of Jeannie and Dave Jordan. Banking came natural to Bryan. His father was chairman of the Community Bankers Association (1988-89). David Jordan had started in the financial business in 1960 when he joined Home Savings and Loan Association of Salisbury. With his wonderful wife Jeannie by his side, he had taken the old thrift chartered (1919) public and renamed it Omni Bank. He later sold the institution to Central Carolina Bank and the Jordans finished their career with CCB. Bryan learned a lot at the knee of his mother and father. It wasn’t all about banking.
David was involved in everything going on in the town of Salisbury, a truly iconic Southern town, which also gave birth to Stanback Headache Powders, Food Lion, Cheerwine and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Jeannie was just as involved as her husband. Matter of fact, she was passionate about those in real deep and abiding need within the community. As the wife of a banking leader, she understood quite clearly the blessings she possessed when measured against those of her fellow human beings who, every day of their lives, arose to the challenge of just making it through that particular day.
In the early 1980s, Jeannie Jordan and her friends Jane Luhrs, Jennie Williamson and Collin Grubb started the first soup kitchen in Salisbury. Every single day they made gallons and gallons of soup in the First Presbyterian Church basement. Those they were feeding were referred to as guests.
Their number totaled as many as 50 a day as news of this place where they could find sustenance spread through the numbers of souls in need, just like they are in every community. Most who came were men, but sometimes there were children and entire families.
The four wonderful ladies who pitched in without initial praise nor publicity saw their endeavor reach out to touch numbers they could never have imagined. Their’s was a quiet act of service. They gave no judgment, they just provided sustenance with a kind and caring smile.
Each lady was responsible for the kitchen one week per month for the noon meal. Jeannie made sure that they all worked diligently to remember the names of the people who came down the line at lunch. She knew that, no matter a person’s condition or station in life, that person always appreciated hearing his or her name called.
There is no accurate count on how many needy individuals turned out on a hot August day, or wrapped in burlap bags and wearing newspaper shoes they had somehow managed to fit their feet on a cold and snowy day in February. It is a fact that literally thousands processed through that special kitchen, just as they’re doing today at lunch, as the service is being provided, non-stop, as it has been for over three decades.
From a mustard seed, Jeannie Jordan and her friends gave back to their community in a way that has grown into a new $6.5 million building with services for the homeless, for the abandoned, for families down on their luck, and for anyone who comes by and requests help. The kitchen of the new facility honors all the women who operated the basement soup kitchen and saw it grow into a project of Rowan Helping Ministries. The building is named for Fred Stanback and Julian Robertson, men of great depth and deep Salisbury roots.
By the way, it takes money… and often lots of it… to turn wonderful causes into practical realities. The first $4 million of funding came “easy.” But after the low hanging fruit had been picked, $2.5 million was still required.
Who came to the fore? Who stood up to say, “Here I am. You can count on me”? It was the banker, David Jordan, and it was banker Paul Fisher. Paul’s family has given back and given back so many times over the years as stewards of F&M Bank, Salisbury. These two men, just like in so many other cases, were called upon by the community to finish the job. They did. What a team they turned out to be and what good they made sure was lastingly in place to serve the community.
It all started with a bowl of soup. It will never end. Need will never go away. One other thing is certain.
The need for community leaders like Paul Fisher, David Jordan, and Bryan Jordan, is part of what banking is all about. Good bankers like these always find a way to fill the plate.
Thad Woodard is president and CEO of the North Carolina Bankers Association. This article first appeared in the Carolina Banker.
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