After 17 years at Ventura County's largest food bank, 67-year-old Lillah Jewel Pedi has retired, leaving behind an agency that distributes $11 million a year in food to 127,000 people.
Pedi, retiring executive director of Food Share, will be honored at a dinner today at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura.
Pedi has played a major role in bringing the food bank from a two-garage operation into a 1,200-square-foot warehouse, friends said.
"But her biggest contribution has been the lives she's touched through the years," said Jim Mangis, the new executive director of Food Share. "She has such a wonderful spirit and she touches and inspires everyone with it."
Pedi said she is particularly pleased that Food Share is debt-free and described it is one of the best-organized food banks in the nation.
She has been with the organization since 1978, when a group of volunteers at the South Coast Fellowship Faith Center in Ventura began to collect food and distribute it.
They operated from a two-car garage before moving into a Saticoy fire station and six years ago to a warehouse in Oxnard.
After Pedi became the organization's executive director, she managed to get a $1-million grant to pay off the warehouse, buy a lot next to it and buy two vans to deliver food.
"My work was meant to help mankind in one way or another," Pedi said. "I think I basically made it easier for those who are less fortunate in the county."