For many years, Val Martel was the driving force behind the Shelburne Food Shelf. With her passing, new leadership had to emerge and with it, a new organizational plan to expand its hours and operations developed.
A volunteer board of directors, composed of eight people representing local churches, social service agencies, the business community, and the community at-large, has been working diligently to maintain services while also working to improve and expand them. In the words of board member Susan Stock, “We are building a plane in mid-air.”
The board estimates that some 100 households in Shelburne are food insecure, yet the food shelf was only serving approximately 30 families. Too often, they must make hard choices between food and medical care. Parents often go without a meal in order to ensure their children are adequately fed, and the problem becomes even more acute during vacations and the summer when the youngsters no longer get meals at school. The food shelf is partnering with the Shelburne Community School to create home packages to help families feed their children during those times.
The Shelburne Food Shelf now offers increased monthly hours. They will be open for food distribution from 9am to 11am on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, and from 5pm to 7pm on the second and fourth Thursday of the month.
Food donations are, of course, essential to the operation. Non-perishable items are always welcome and may be dropped off at any time outside the food shelf’s door across from the gym in the municipal center. In addition to food, personal care items such as soap, shampoo, toilet tissue and the like are also needed. Local dentists are generously donating toothbrushes and toothpaste for those in need.
Monetary donations are also a big help. The Shelburne Food Shelf is in the process of obtaining its own 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS as a charitable organization with the help of local accountant David Webster and local lawyer Steve Unsworth who are donating their time. In the meantime, the Methodist Church is accepting tax deductible donations earmarked for the food shelf so they can give out vouchers for milk and egg purchases and offer emergency assistance to those in need, such as gas vouchers and bus passes so that recipients can get to and from their workplaces. The food shelf would like to obtain a freezer and refrigerator in order to store perishable items such as meat, milk, butter, and eggs.
The number of people in need in Shelburne is higher than most residents might think, and the needs continue year round, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas when the more fortunate are apt to respond to food drives and make donations for holiday dinners. The board also wants to stress that the food shelf, while housed in the municipal center, is not otherwise subsidized by the town but rather is run by community minded volunteers. More volunteers and financial support are vital to its success in order to ensure that no residents of Shelburne, particularly our children and elderly, go without adequate food.