JOPLIN, Mo. — A retired teacher, well known in the community for her caregiving nature, mentorship, and for having a service heart, decided shaping young minds wasn’t where her story ended.

This remarkable woman, who is all of the above, now runs one of the area’s largest food and crisis pantries.

She had her merits tested during the pandemic, but like the eye of a storm, she stayed calm amid the chaos.

Crosslines Ministries knew they had a mission: never shut down.

“Crosslines wouldn’t run without Carrie,” said Rodney Rambo, Crosslines Ministries Executive Director.

Heartfelt words from the executive director of Joplin’s Crosslines Ministries food pantry.

“One of the most selfless people I know and one of the most humble,” said Rambo.

“My job is to make sure everybody in the building gets through the day from Point A to Point B, as quickly, as efficiently, as positively as I can,” said Carrie Pence, Crosslines Ministries Director of Operations.

If you ask those who truly know her, Carrie Pence does so much more than that.

“Everything she does, it’s selfless. It’s just a desire to help people and no desire to receive recognition for that,” said Rambo.

She wasn’t always in nonprofit work.

“I was a teacher for 25 years. I worked at Webb City and Carl Junction. When I retired, I was often asked, ‘Well, what do you plan on doing?” said Pence.

The answer was to lead operations at a crisis ministry for more than two thousand people in need of hygiene products, food, and clothing every single month.

“It’s very fulfilling, and I’m very glad that we, as a pantry with the extended services that we have, can fulfill those needs as well,” said Pence.

Some moments stick out more than others.

“The other day, it came in through an organization, but I had an opportunity to help out a family that was a victim of human trafficking. I have no idea where she lives, I don’t need to know, and she had a family with children that I was able to help out with as well. I think that was just the best thing ever when I was able to do that,” said Pence.

Perhaps no other memories are as involved as her tireless work to keep the organization running for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic when the rest of the world felt so lost and confused.

“If it would have just been me, I probably would have had to take some time to close Crosslines to regroup, but Carrie was committed to not letting that happen. For the next six months, we would have a website and a mobile ability to get food to people. We didn’t have to close one single day due to COVID,” said Pence.

Of course, she takes none of the credit.

“We would not be what we are as an organization without the volunteers and the staff that is here,” said Pence.

“Carrie has remained a solid force in the midst of unprecedented circumstances, whether that be COVID or a year of historic inflation,” said Rambo.

That level-headed nature is likely no accident.

“I grew up in the military. My dad was in the Air Force. I moved many, many, many times. So, you just learn to put one foot in front of the other and ‘What’s next?’ and do what you need to do,” said Pence.

“Carrie is the model of what it means to be a remarkable woman, because of, not only the service she’s provided and the way she cares so much about other people but the way she carries herself in doing all of those things. For me, she’s a model of humility and service that has changed my life,” said Rambo.