Food Shelf needs donations to avoid cutting services

Feb. 24, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

The Williston Community Food Shelf, which serves economically struggling residents on a year round basis, needs funds quickly in order to avoid cutting services.

The nonprofit organization is $4,000 short of its fundraising goal for the first quarter of 2011. Without that money, the Food Shelf might need to reduce assistance to clients, said President Cathy Michaels.

Michaels said donations dried up after a busy holiday season in November and December. The January and February months are generally the quietest of the year in terms of donations, but the need for food and money remains, Michaels added.

If the Food Shelf can’t make up the $4,000 shortfall, the organization may need to cut services. Michaels said clients, who are allowed to make two visits to the Food Shelf per month, might be asked to come only once a month for a temporary period. The Food Shelf might also forego purchasing perishable items, such as milk and eggs, until money becomes available.

“Those are choices we don’t want to have to make,” Michaels said.

The Food Shelf opened in Maple Tree Place in 2008, helping needy families in Williston, St. George, Essex, and Richmond. The organization moved its headquarters to a smaller location at the Taft Farm Village Center on Cornerstone Drive in January 2010.

Michaels said the Food Shelf wants to increase its fundraising events and hopes a local volunteer can step in, and  guide the organization in the right direction.

“We need to find someone in the community who has a fundraising background,” Michaels said. “Fundraising will always be a top priority so we can keep up the needs of our clients.”

Most of the Food Shelf’s donations come from individuals and businesses. Michaels said it’s difficult for Food Shelf volunteers to continuously ask businesses for donations, and she hopes there might be different ways to reach the community. For instance, the Food Shelf held an online art auction last year that brought in much needed funds during the spring months.

And while the Food Shelf deals with funding issues in the short term, it’s also looking ahead. Fundraising will continue to remain an issue, but the Food Shelf also needs to expand. When it moved to Cornerstone Drive, the organization had to adapt to a smaller space, which remains a challenge as more families continue to visit. Michaels said there is added space available adjacent to its ground floor location. She hopes an expansion can occur later this year, pending available funds.

Michaels also said the Food Shelf needs volunteers to help in creating a database of clients, and a certified public accountant volunteer to audit the books once a year. She also said volunteers with experience in any field are always welcome.

“We have a core group of volunteers that really help make this a wonderful place,” she added.

Food and monetary donations can be dropped off at the Food Shelf during its operating hours: Tuesdays, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m;  Thursdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Checks can also be mailed to the Food Shelf at P.O. Box 1605, Williston, VT 05495.