Meet Your Neighbor: Martha Allen

As folks around the country prepare for the bountiful meal of Thanksgiving, it seems like a perfect time for me to introduce myself. I genuinely love to meet people and I really love to share about the great work Extra Table is doing in Hattiesburg and the state.

I was born and raised in Clarksdale and studied at “all the schools up north.” I majored in art at Ole Miss, graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in interior design and art history – and ultimately received a master’s degree in architecture and design from Mississippi State. But have no fear, Southern Miss black and gold runs through my veins. In fact, my grandfather and uncle both played football at USM. To the Top!

After school, I spent some time in New York and Memphis before settling down back home in West Point. For the past 10 years, I have been working in the non-profit world – first as director of the West Point Main Street Association and for the past seven years I was employed by a community mental health center as the director of business development for an addiction treatment program. 

I collect art and antiques. I enjoy cooking, any outdoor activity and travelling. 

In March of this year, I accepted the position of executive director at Extra Table. A month later, I purchased a house and become an official Hattiesburger. 

As many of you know, transitions are usually difficult. However, this most recent transition has been a breeze and for this I am thankful. I honestly believe it is because Hattiesburg is truly such an incredible city – so progressive and accepting.

Not only is it home to an outstanding arts and cultural scene run by passionate leaders, it has a strong industrial and business base equally matched with top medical facilities and two incredible universities. 

I am continually blown away by the genuine people I come across and I value a community with a strong local newspaper. Don’t you enjoy seeing the neighborhood kids’ lemonade stand or the high school team win an athletic or academic title? 

I feel as if I have hit the jackpot with Hattiesburg and am overjoyed to call it home.

Growing up in a family of public servants, I have always known I want-ed to make a difference and be a positive light to those around me. Extra Table allows me the ability to use all my talents to serve others. 

For those in the dark, Extra Table is a charitable partnership launched by local restaurateur Robert St. John that focuses on making a difference in the lives of Mississippians by stocking food pantries and soup kitchens across the state with healthy, shelf-stable food delivered by Sysco.

Locally, Extra Table sends food to the USM Eagle’s Nest, Edward’s Street Mission, Christian Services, Petal Children’s Task Force and Good Samaritan in Laurel. We’re currently serving 33 food pantries across 29 counties in Mississippi but by year’s end, we expect numbers to double. 

Like many of you, I believe food is a necessity, not a privilege, especially at the holidays, everyone should have the opportun-

ity to sit around a table full of food to celebrate with loved ones.

Mississippians almost always lead the nation when it comes to generosity and hospitality and throughout the South, breaking bread with our friends is such a common and intimate activity that many of us take it for granted. 

It’s hard to believe that in the richest country in the world people are still hungry and missing meals. 

It happens to our seniors. It happens to our children who have no control over the next time they will be fed. 

It happens to single mothers who are struggling to make ends meet. 

It happens to college students who are sometimes too afraid to ask their struggling parents for help.

Hunger happens to the bravest veterans that secured the freedom we enjoy today. 

A warm bowl of soup may be just the support a person needs to face another day. Food is truly hope for a better tomorrow and I’m fortunate to be living in a region alongside so many people who, like me, want the best for their fellow man.

If you see me out and about, please take time to say hello and introduce yourself. Please take time to visit online at extratable.org/donate to learn more about the program and maybe even help sustain our work.

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