When Tom Allebach gives up the reins at Manna on Main Street Jan. 27, he is not giving up nearly 13 years of falling in love with the North Penn community and the 700-plus households the nonprofit deals with on a daily basis.
He will continue to be a supporter of Manna, and a supporter of its mission to help the less fortunate and needy clientele in the North Penn School District area.
“I’m going to miss interacting with all the people here. The clients and their families are really great,” he said. “We have wonderful volunteers and I really love our staff and board.”
“It’s the people that I’m going to miss,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, but more sweet than anything.”
Manna is poised to move its headquarters from St. John's United Church of Christ to a new building at 713 West Main Street, due to meeting the demand for its services.
“Manna is in a really good position now, as far as being financially strong,” said Allebach. “We have a lot of community support moving to our new building. It’s a good transition time and I have some other personal goals I want to pursue. So it’s good timing for both of us.”
For the first two years at Manna, Allebach was a part-time volunteer director. He went full time in 2003, when Manna founder, St. John's UCC Rev. John Touchberry, retired.
“(Touchberry) was retiring and there was no one to take his place. I volunteered to take it on,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’ve been doing it for a few years,’ so I took over.”
Allebach said there would be an interim director in place. The board will do a formal search for a full-time director.
“Tom Allebach has led Manna on Main Street through our period of greatest growth and expansion regarding our community needs," said Manna Board of Directors Chairwoman Jeanne Andolina in a press release. "Under Tom’s leadership and vision, Manna has expanded to a staff of seven and now provides hot meals, food pantry and financial aid to a growing community in need."
During his tenure, Allebach has seen Manna grow to become one of the top nonprofits and soup kitchens in the region.
“When I first came on, we had two employees. Services were good, but we were still learning about what we were doing,” he said. “We’ve grown so much beyond the types of services we provide and the way we interact with and engage the community.”
Allebach’s best memory of the past 13 years is a recent one – the 30th anniversary in November 2011.
“That’s the one thing that stands out the most – just to see the people that were there to support it,” he said. “We got to honor some of the people who have been such big supporters of Manna over that time period. It’s great to see that come together and be a part of that.”
Allebach said he will continue to believe in the mission and the people who look to Manna as a resource.
“I’ll still be around cheering for them,” he said.
When he leaves next week, Lansdale resident Allebach will start a new career in web design.
He is going to work for Sitecats Web Development in Doylestown.
“I’ll be working with nonprofit and faith organizations in the area,” he said. “Because I’ve worked in the community with those groups in the past, it’s a group of people and organizations I feel strongly about and I will continue to support them.”
Three years ago, Manna saw one its coordinator Dolly Craig leave for bigger things.
Now, with Allebach’s departure, and with its new location opening in March, Manna heads down a new path in its history.
“People are sad I’m moving on,” Allebach said. “It’s a mutual feeling. I’m sad that I’m leaving, but at the same time, it’s something that’s good for all of us.”
Manna on Main Street was founded in 1981 by a consortium of local churches and caring individuals from the community. Out of that gathering, Manna on Main Street was born, according to its website.
For the first two years, operations took place from the basement of the church. When the building next door was donated by a parishioner, Manna on Main Street came to life, according to the website.
Andolina said Manna's programs and services will continue during the search for a new director.
"With the support of the North Penn community, Manna's mission remains the same - "that everyone may be fed" - especially in our troubled economy," she said.