Passion for the pantry

Charlie Bunn had a passion for helping the hungry.

Several years ago on Thanksgiving Day, Bunn volunteered to leave his family's holiday gathering to take care of an alarm that went off at Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry (ECCCM), the nonprofit crisis assistance organization in Newton where he volunteered many hours.

On the way home, Bunn found a homeless man, picked him up and took him home.

"Charlie walks into his home and tells his wife to set another plate," said the Rev. Robert Silber, executive director of ECCCM. "He had a passion."

On Oct. 2, Bunn will be remembered for that passion as ECCCM dedicates its food pantry in his name and memory.

The ministry helps the needy with food, clothing, rent, mortgage, fuel, pharmaceuticals and other needs.

Silber said Bunn volunteered throughout ECCCM.

"His fingerprints are literally all over the ministry," Silber said.

"Charlie was just everywhere. There's not a thing in that ministry that he wouldn't do or hasn't done. His passion centered in the food area."

Area grocery stores, bakeries and churches donate food to the pantry. Bunn, who lived in Conover, spent hours carrying food into the ministry's center, stocking shelves, bagging meals and taking them to the people.

ECCCM formed in 1969 and began in the former nurses' school building on O Street.

The ministry outgrew that building but remained there for many years until it moved into a new space on N Street in 2005. Bunn put in hours, along with other volunteers, to help the ministry settle into the new location.

Silber estimates that Bunn spent 18,000-20,000 total hours volunteering for ECCCM. He started in the late 1990s and, in his retirement from Hanes Industries, spent at least 30 hours a week helping out.

"We started counting his volunteer hours and gave up," Silber said.

ECCCM could always count on Bunn, who died about three months ago. The pantry will take his name Oct. 2 at the 3 p.m. ceremony at 245 East N St.

"Through his dying day, he was intricately involved in this ministry," Silber said.

"Charlie was a large part of our ministry's growth, and he knew so many people. We want to highlight not only Charlie but his daughter and her children who volunteer regularly, too."