CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – All month long we’ve been shining a spotlight on some of the most remarkable women in Hampton Roads. This is a part of our parent company’s nationwide Remarkable Women contest to honor women doing great things in local communities.

From receiving all of your nominations in December, the judges narrowing it down in January, getting to meet each of our lovely finalists and bringing you their stories over the last several weeks, it’s been a journey.

Last, but certainly not least of this year’s remarkable women, is Mechele Hairston, a servant leader and hero to many with a giving heart who has helped to feed thousands of people in Hampton Roads.

“I am the outreach coordinator here and we operate Bountiful Blessings food pantry,” said Hairston. “This year makes 14 years that we’ve been operating. My grandmother reared me up in a life of service. So every opportunity I get to give someone a hand up, I do that. We do mobile distribution. So besides being here throughout the week, we’re out in those communities of course servicing those individuals who can’t make it all the way down here. There’s your meats, non-perishables — we promote healthy eating. We distribute a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and of course, there’s bread, and the bonus items would be pastries if we have them available.”

Each family gets enough food for a week. Each client has their own story of how they came to need help. It’s a ministry impacting people for miles around.

“You just never know who’s going through,” said Hairston. “There was a young man who came and he had to choose between his home or sleeping in the car. There has been an increase in those individuals that we service. I’m talking 300-400%. So in the last couple of years, we’ve distributed around two million pounds of food.”

Bountiful Blessings is a partner agency with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. Hairston says they’re working to go beyond putting food in the stomach to identifying the root causes of hunger and helping people with education, housing and employment needs.

Deborah Brown nominated Hairston for the Remarkable Women contest. And she’s not the only one who’s recognized the fact that Hairston always goes the extra mile.

Former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam acknowledged her work as an exemplary volunteer and community activist in the Commonwealth, too.

“We just want to make sure that everyone knows she’s a woman of faith and doing great things in the 757,” said Brown. “She just looks out for everyone. Nobody’s left out. She cares about the least, the lost, the left behind and forgotten individuals that a lot of people may overlook.”

A woman of faith. A mama on a mission. Mechele Hairston is showing us all what strength, perseverance and prayer can do.

“Every day that I wake up I just thank God for Him giving me the ability to serve others. I’m a single mother of four children and I wasn’t born with the silver spoon in my mouth. So I’ve been through that rough patch. You can do it. If I did it, you can.” Hairston said.