Clyde Fitzgerald, the former CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, passes away

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Clyde Fitzgerald, the former CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, has died, according to the food bank.

The organization sent FOX8 the following statement on Sunday:

"Everyone who has known Clyde over the years realizes the impact he has made in addressing hunger in our region and state - first as a board member and board chair with Second Harvest Food Bank, and, later, as the CEO for nearly ten years. Clyde's graciousness, generosity, and loving presence in our lives will be greatly missed. We will honor him every day through our work to 'provide food and hope to those who have too little of both' (one of my favorite quotes from Clyde) and seek to achieve his vision, knowing that hunger is a problem that can be solved.”

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina distributed 38 million pounds of food over the last year. The organization works with church food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

“The problem of hunger is a tragedy in this country, in this state, in this city, that doesn’t have to happen,” Fitzgerald told FOX8 earlier this year.

More than 60 people work at Second Harvest Food Bank full-time. Hundreds of others volunteer time to help the organization meet its goals.

The food that fills the organization’s 104,000 square-feet of warehouse space in southeast Winston-Salem is all donated: by the government, by individuals at food drives and by area grocery stores just to name a few.

Fitzgerald knows all about distribution through his long career at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company from which he retired as a top executive. In the early 1980s (while he was still working for RJR), he was among the local leaders who founded the Food Bank to meet a growing need in the community.

In 2008, after retiring from Reynolds, he became the Food Bank’s executive director and then CEO. Most will agree he’s the Piedmont Triad’s leading authority on hunger and feeding the less fortunate.

Current CEO of Second Harvest Eric Aft has only been in the position for a few months but worked closely with Fitzgerald as an investor.

"There was nobody more passionate about hunger and food insecurity than Clyde Fitzgerald," Aft said. "Working with Clyde over the past year has been a joy, every single day it was about finding new ways and better ways to do the work of second harvest and to help people."

Fitzgerald was a member of St. Paul Episcopal Church for 45 years.

Rev. Dixon Kinser said he inspired others to get involved in his service to the community solving the issue of hunger.

"Its always struck that somebody that had the kind of skills he had, the kind of connections he had after years at Reynolds, he could kind of do anything," Kinser said. "But what he chose to do was employ those talents."

Fitzgerald leaves behind a wife, three children and five grandkids. In his honor, family members are asking for donations to Second Harvest Food Bank instead of flowers.

The services for Fitzgerald will be held Monday at 2 p.m. at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem.

For more information on the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, check out its website.