The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is going back to the tried and true.
Peggy Moore, a longtime board member and one-time executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, has returned to the organization's top position.
"My heart has always been with the food bank. I've never lost my love for it," Moore said Wednesday, her third day back on the job.
She was director for almost two years, beginning in 1998, but left in mid-2000 to undergo back surgery. After recovering, and a year of physical therapy, she felt well enough to apply for the vacant position.
"We are delighted she is on the job," said food bank board member Jim Fisher. "But we'll have to be easier on our expectations than we were before."
Those expectations, and Moore's own drive, contributed to 12- to 15-hour work days. She promised her family she would stick to eight-hour days this time around. In her first week, she's been able to keep her work days under nine hours.
"I've been working very hard at that," she said.
Moore said she recently started doing some part-time volunteering for the food bank, working on grants, before deciding to apply for the full-time position.
"My family comes first and foremost, but after a lot of prayer, I decided to submit a resume and a letter of interest," she said. "Things just fell into place."
"If you heard a 'hallelujah,' that was the board," Fisher said. "She is undoubtedly the most qualified person to do this job on the entire Kenai Peninsula.
"She is the standard by which we will probably always judge an executive director."
Part of Moore's decision to return was her feeling that she could stay in the position for an extended period of time.
"It wouldn't have been fair to the board or the clients if I couldn't stay on and they had to go through a job search again," she said. "It's a thrill to be back here, a real blessing."
Part of what Moore thinks will help her in her job is that the food bank now has a program director, Pat Vincent.
"She is great at organizing things and events, freeing me up to do the day-to-day business, which I wasn't before," Moore said. "I see us working together closely. She's one of the factors of why I came back."
She said she would like to create more support in the community for the food bank.
"One thing that has been lacking is public exposure. Without someone here writing letters to the editor or to our donors it's hard to build a solid base of support in the community," she said.
Moore, who initiated the food bank's soup kitchen program, has a number of ideas for new projects she thought up while away from the job.
She said that if the soup kitchen can be walled off from the dining area, she would like to present educational programs to food bank and soup kitchen clients and others. One would be budget planning and money management.
"A lot of people who come here are in financial straits because they never learned to handle money," she said.
She also would like to offer nutritional planning and classes in conjunction with the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Office.
"We could identify local food resources like berries, fish and game," Moore said. "There are many opportunities here that a lot of people are not utilizing. Part of that is because they don't know about them, or wouldn't know what to do with them.
"But it all depends on funding, and we have to meet our immediate needs first," she added.
Some of those basics include fixing the food bank's forklift and pallet jack and maintaining its vehicles. The food bank lost a number of gallons of milk this week for the lack of a forklift to move them.
Those kinds of repairs, and the cost of operations, require money, something the food bank is always in need of.
"It's true that we can always get food," Moore said. "The real challenge is getting money to operate.
"It's wonderful to get food, but we need to keep the building warm, have electricity to run our freezers and money to pay our staff. Food is a very personal gift, and people think money is too impersonal."
The food bank does not receive any funding from any city, the Kenai Peninsula Borough or the state. It does get about $8,000 a year from the Federal Emergency Management Agency strictly for purchasing food.
"All of our other financial needs are met through the community," Moore said.
Some financial times are leaner than others. Fisher said that a few years ago board of director members loaned the food bank money to meet payroll.
"That's no way to run a business," he said.
Moore didn't have current figures on contributions, but said it took a recent upswing when the Kenai-Soldotna Bowling Associa-tion gave the food bank a check for $10,000.
"We desperately needed it," she said.
She did not have figures readily available for how the food bank's clients have been affected by the nationwide economic recession or the Sept. 11 attacks, but from January through October, there has been a 22 percent increase in soup kitchen visits over the same period last year.
The direct service segment of the food bank's operations, where once a month clients can get a box of food, has increased 4 percent this year.
Service to the agencies the food bank supports, such as senior centers and crisis centers, has gone up 1 percent.
The food bank supports 60 nonprofit agencies across the Kenai Peninsula. It provides approximately 1,550 hot meals in its soup kitchen per month and through October has distributed about a half-million pounds of food to the needy.
The food bank's yearly mail solicitation went out in early November, and Moore expects donations to continue through January or February.
"They usually pick up during the holidays," she said. "People think of the needy and contribute more."
To make a contribution, call the food bank at 262-3111.
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