The director of the food bag distribution organization Manna from Heaven stepped down on Tuesday, March 9, citing health reasons.
Stephanie Stieler, 49, said she has been director of the organization since she formed it in California 13 years ago, but has opted to step down after suffering from acute kidney failure.
Stieler said her health problems began two weeks ago. “I tried to tough it out and thought it was a virus,” said Stieler. “Then on Monday, March 1, I went to Blount Memorial Hospital, and I had acute kidney failure. I am so lucky. I was in ICU, and they revived my kidneys halfway back, and by the third day, they were fully recovered,” she said. “The doctor, Dr. Mordi Bredayr, told me this past Friday that I need to step back. I ran this for 13 years from California and now here. I cried a lot, but I was thinking of those we serve.”
Stieler said she will stay on as a board member. Whether she will return as director a later date is in question, she said.
“I’m stepping down for a year or so. I need to recover, and I don’t want Manna from Heaven to go down because of me,” she said. “I doubt I’ll come back, but I’ll stay on as a board member.”
Pastor Jason Word, 33, of Freedom Free Will Baptist Church in Friendsville will step in a director.
“We want to keep the vision we have had of feeding the hungry of Blount County. With Stephanie stepping aside, I have big shoes to fill,” said Word. “We want to continue with her vision, but we want to add to it by helping people get back into the workforce, by helping them write resumes and helping them with their interview skills.”
Word said they are in the process of looking at the programs they do to make sure they are feeding the hungry. “We want to be frugal with what the community gives us,” he said. “We want to reach out to local congregations. No church is too small.”
Stieler said she was pleased with Word and thanked him for accepting the volunteer position. “I could not pick a better guy,” she said. “It’s time, but I’ll still be on the board, and I’ll help with fundraising.”