Change, the only constant, visits Charlotte Food Shelf

It has been said that the only constant is change. This is particularly true at this time in the history of the Charlotte Food Shelf, which began over three decades ago with Kristine Gerson and Marty Dietchie marshaling a van to distribute food after Charlotte Central School drop-offs.

The van soon found a parking place in the Charlotte Congregational Church lot for distributions. The Congregational Church graciously offered a haven for the food shelf in its basement, and van life morphed to a space shared with an oil tank, painted to resemble a spotted cow.

Photo by Maj Eisinger.
From left, Karen Doris is retiring as president of the Charlotte Food Shelf and Cindy Tyler is retiring as treasurer.
Photo by Maj Eisinger. From left, Karen Doris is retiring as president of the Charlotte Food Shelf and Cindy Tyler is retiring as treasurer.

Church members soon put up shelving and painted, the Allen family donated its first refrigerator and a used freezer was gifted by an anonymous donor. The food shelf was then able to store and distribute vital perishables like milk, bread and eggs.

Programs soon expanded beyond food distribution. The Shoe-in Program for kids’ shoes began with seed money from the Abeles family, a Pet Food Shelf began with seed money from Phylis Kroll. Holiday basket programs were started by Charlotte Central School, and alliances with the Grange and with local farmers brought clothing donations and local produce to food shelf families.

In 2008, the food shelf began to offer assistance for emergencies such as utility shutoffs, housing and medical needs. The food shelf operated under the diocese of the Catholic Church, until federal law dictated that umbrella nonprofits incorporate as 501c entities. This initiated the new moniker, Charlotte Food Shelf, Inc.

Today, the food shelf is entirely run by volunteers and remains dependent on community donations. It supports multiple Charlotte families with healthy food and the assistance provided by the other programs, and represents a vital part of our community’s safety net.

As Karen Doris steps down after 31 years of service, including 26 years as director and five years as board president and CEO, we honor her significant contributions to this safety net. This safety net is woven with dedication, compassion and an amalgam of seemingly small actions: the multiple trips in her family car to Costco for food shelf supplies, collecting boxes of clothes for food shelf kids in her basement, baking banana bread to feed volunteers filling holiday baskets, delivering food to those who couldn’t make it to the food shelf themselves, donations and budgets, procuring food and stocking it, anticipating community needs, planning and expanding services. These tell the tale of 31 years of change and dedication to a labor of love. We thank Karen for nourishing a culture of generosity and care. She has inspired amazing community volunteers, including her husband Bill Doris, whose work is integral to the food shelf’s mission.

Cindy Tyler, stepping down after five years as treasurer, should also be honored for her dedication, attention to detail and generous spirit. Cindy has always multitasked and fulfilled several different volunteer roles besides treasurer, including organizing and delivering food to shut-ins, serving as a distribution volunteer and assistance committee member, and helping to coordinate shopping efforts. The food shelf remains indebted to her.

Karen and Cindy’s service and dedication to the organization and its mission have been indispensable.

In July, board appointees will include Margaret Sharpe as president, Giles Anderson as secretary and Michael Russell as treasurer. Nancy Bloch will continue as vice president and Mike Yantachka as director.

Amidst change we note, with gratitude, the constancy of community support. Generous donations from the Barnes Family Charitable Fund, Jocelyn Schermerhorn, Frances Foster, Elizabeth Bassett and John Pane are much appreciated. A generous grant from the Shelburne Charlotte Hinesburg Interfaith Project (SCHIP) is gratefully received. We thank Ellen Greek for her donation in honor of Louise McCarren. Louise McCarren is also remembered with a generous gift from the National Life Group, whom we thank. We appreciate the donation from Sheila Santero in loving memory of Louise McCarren and Ed Amidon. We are also grateful to Nick Debenedetto Jr. and family for their donation in memory of “favorite uncle” John Paul Lavigne. Donations from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Kathleen Nolan and Hannaford’s Hunger Bag Program were also received with gratitude.

The food shelf is grateful for the Vermonters Feeding Vermonters grant again this year, and collaboration with Frog Song Farm as one of our partners has begun. The goal of the grant is to support local producers, while providing fresh, local products to our families at the food shelf.

Thanks also to all those backyard gardeners who planted with a plan to donate to the food shelf. Those who grow can still plant a row. Donations from community gardeners, such as spinach, lettuce, green beans, play a vital role in ensuring a supply of nutritious, fresh food. Produce can be donated beginning at 3 p.m. on distribution Wednesday.

Monetary donations are appreciated, tax deductible and can be addressed to: Charlotte Food Shelf, P.O. Box 83, Charlotte VT 05445. An easy, new way to donate is through the Paypal button on the website address below.

The following donations of nonperishables are always helpful: peanut butter, snack bars, coffee, condiments, crackers, canned soups, spaghetti sauce, breakfast cereals, toilet paper and paper towels. Individual containers of fruit and juice are particularly useful in the summer.

Food is provided at 403 Church Hill Road, behind the Charlotte Congregational Church, on the second and fourth Wednesday (4-6 p.m.) and second and fourth Saturday (9-11 a.m.) of each month. For emergency food, to schedule drop-offs or if you cannot come to the food shelf due to illness, please call 802-425-2402.

Charlotte Food Shelf also provides limited utility, rent, medical, dental, school supplies and other emergency assistance to residents of Charlotte and North Ferrisburgh. If you or someone you know is facing unexpected hardship, help is available. Simply call 802- 425-2402 or fill out a request form. Request forms are available during food shelf open hours or on the website.