By Kathy Chouteau
The late Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, the founder of the charitable White Pony Express, was honored by the Richmond City Council Tues., June 27 for her contributions and humanitarian efforts to serve the underserved community in Richmond, according to the meeting’s Agenda Report.
Dr. Conner passed away peacefully at the age of 80 at her residence in Walnut Creek on April 22, per the White Pony Express. The City of Richmond proclamation was brought forth in her memory by Vice Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
As founder of the White Pony Express, Dr. Conner sparked the altruistic work of the nonprofit, which gathers 12,000 pounds of fresh surplus food daily from supermarkets, farmers markets and restaurants and redistributes it free of charge to those in need in Richmond and Contra Costa County.
In Richmond, the nonprofit’s efforts help nourish young students by providing fresh groceries and nutritional meals to Coronado Elementary, Ford Elementary, Golden Gate Community School and Verde Elementary, per the Agenda Report. And for the last decade, it has also delivered “thousands of clothing items to Richmond service organizations who have distributed these items to Richmond residents.”
Dr. Conner believed that there is a simple solution to end hunger and marginalization for good and called it “voluntary shared abundance.” She said, “Responsibility for helping the family of man is assumed by everyone, or in the phrase White Pony Express often uses, ‘All of us taking care of all of us.’”
Before founding the Pleasant Hill-based White Pony Express, Dr. Conner studied English literature at Cal, French literature at the Sorbonne in Paris and medieval studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, per the nonprofit. She also earned a PhD in clinical psychology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
She went on to work as a practicing therapist for twenty-five years while also volunteering as a counselor at Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco, according to the White Pony Express. In the ‘70s, she joined Sufism Reoriented, and upon her passing, was serving as the group’s spiritual director.
During her lifetime of giving, Dr. Conner also founded the nonprofit, Following Francis, which has hosted outdoor musical plays and other activities for nearly 15,000 children nationwide, including in Richmond, according to the Agenda Report.
Since Dr. Conner first founded the White Pony Express 2013, it has evolved into one of the state’s largest food rescue programs and has grown to also redistribute unsold new clothing and other goods, per the nonprofit. Read our article about the organization’s local work here.