Friday, February 8, 2008

Donor thank you's from small agencies

A recent exchange on an old post leads me to move some comments from the comment section to a main post. A pantry donor who held a food drive for a local food pantry was very disappointed that they did not receive a thank you for a donation of apprx. 1700 cans of food delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Further, because of their donation, the commenter didn't believe there was a food shortage in Dec. The response from the director of the pantry, I believe, is a worthwhile read for all of us to shed some light on what it is like to manage a small food assistance facility. In the interest of promoting understanding, I'm posting her response here.
Dear Anonymous,

I am very sorry that you didn't have a good donating experience. I am also very sorry you feel that I have not been truthful. To help you understand my point of view, I want to tell you about what it’s like to run a Food Pantry of this size. Although I’m very busy, your comments were rather hurtful and I feel it important to tell you the real facts.

Starting in July we went from receiving 8,000lbs. of food per month from the Greater Chicago Food Depository (our area food bank) to receiving 2,000lbs. In addition to receiving the 8,000lbs of food, I would still purchase an additional 8,000lbs per month. Although hard to believe, that is the truth. In addition to the dramatic decrease in food, we have had a dramatic increase in clients. There have been almost 100 new families each month. It may surprise you to learn that 1,700 cans of food lasts only about two days around here. Not to mention that November and December are insanely busy months. So busy that nothing else other than taking in donations and serving people gets done. Unfortunately, those two months are really the only months anyone even thinks of our Food Pantry. The other ten months of the year we are forgotten. We are very grateful that people think of us in those two months, but people need to eat year round. Not just in November and December.

Regarding your wish for a thank you letter: Thank you’s are very important to us, but our priority must be to serve our clients even when we are short-staffed. Right now I am behind in a lot of work. I still haven’t been able to send Thank You cards for everything. We are missing a valuable staff member and I have temporary help to train and watch over. Last month, I also had to re-certify 500 seniors on our Catholic Charity program. I can go on and on. I am one person doing an immense amount of work. Perhaps these details can help you understand what it is like at a local food pantry. It would be nice to have a donor-relations staff to take care of thank you letters, but we’re small and that’s not in our means. I am truly sorry if I have been unable to send a Thank you note yet. My advice to you is to be patient and perhaps ask yourself a question as well: Did you give because you wanted to truly help people or did you give because you wanted a feel good experience? If you have given from your heart, and wanted to make sure that hungry people had food to put in their stomachs, then feel comfortable in the knowledge that you succeeded.

I work so hard to make sure that people who need this Food Pantry get the best food possible as well as items to meet other basic needs. Their needs go far beyond needing food. Some of these people can’t even afford toothpaste or soap. There are Mothers who come in asking for formula for their infant baby. In November and December I ordered festive bags and made each household a lovely bag of food with all the stuff they would need in order to have a holiday meal. They also received a 12-14lb turkey. If it wasn’t for us most of these people would not be able to have a holiday meal literally. At this time in addition to all the work that I have to do, I am installing software that will help generate Thank you notes. You may not have received a Thank you note by mail, but EVERY single person that’s donates to this Food Pantry receives an official Thank You card at the time of donation. No matter if they donate one small bag of food or a car full. This card has the Township stamp on it with a thank you from the Supervisor and the Board of Trustees. This Thank You card also is a tax receipt for your donation. You may not have received a Thank You letter by mail, but someone in your organization did did receive an official Thank You Card when your items were dropped off.

I hope this helps your understanding of the situation and that you and your group continue to give generously to organizations that help people at-risk for hunger.

Thank you,
Cynthia A. Carranza
Director of the Niles Township Food Depository

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