Food bank hungry for donations, director

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

For the second time in less than a year, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank board of directors must undertake the chore of finding a new executive director.

Sandy Dallmann, who had been the director for about seven months, turned in her resignation at the end of November, and it was accepted by the board at its Dec. 12 meeting. Her last day was Thursday.

Dallmann's supporters, which included family, staff and volunteers, asked the board not to accept her resignation, because they said they thought she was doing a great job organizing and running the food bank.

Dallmann declined to explain why she had resigned, or say if she was being forced out.

"I turned in my resignation because of my own personal integrity," Dallmann said after the board meeting.

The organization advertised an opening for Dallmann's position prior to accepting her resignation.

Food bank board member Jim Fisher said Dallmann was not forced out, but he said he could not comment whether she would have been retained if she had not resigned.

He did say that the food bank's operations need work.

"We need to be a little more precise in our operations and procedures," Fisher said this week. "We're not doing as well as we could or should with (seeking) funds."

The food bank has been running behind in its revenue projections this fall, he said, mostly because its annual mail appeal was sent out later than usual. As a result, he said the food bank had to go to the United Way for emergency funds.

"We kind of discovered that we were behind in several of our payments," he said. "The problem we have is we're always on the edge."

Evy Gebhardt, executive director of Kenai Peninsula United Way, said it is not unusual for certain agencies to ask for an early distribution of its allocated funds from her agency. United Way pays its member agencies quarterly, and the next disbursement was due on Dec. 31.

"They got an early portion of that money. It wasn't additional money," she said. "They needed it to get through the holiday season, which is very taxing on them."

She said it was not the first time the food bank had asked for an early distribution of funds it was going to get anyway.

"It's funds they know are coming in," Gebhardt said. "It worked out for us because we had a pretty successful campaign last year, so we had the funds available at the time."

Fisher said it costs about $14,000 a month to run the four programs the food bank operates and pay its $1,800 a month mortgage.

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, started in the late 1980s, supports 62 social service agencies across the peninsula and operates its own emergency direct food service, soup kitchen and a government commodity service, which provides cheese and other staples.

"We get absolutely no administration money for that," Fisher said.

He said the food bank is not so much in need of food as it is of money.

"People name us in food drives that we don't even know about until we read it in the paper," he said. "But those are not fund-raisers for us.

"The board is concerned about operations, keeping the refrigerators up and the trucks running," he added. "People think a donation of food is the equivalent of supporting the food bank, and it isn't. If we've got funds, we can get food."

He praised the work of many groups that conduct canned food drives and said the donations are very appreciated.

"We take it and we use it, and it's very good, since it's mostly canned goods," he said. "We don't have to pare them down or refrigerate them. It's a good kind of food to handle."

Operating funds pay for five full-time employees and three half-time employees. In addition to the social service agencies it supports, the food bank also serves 900 people a month in its soup kitchen.

Fisher said most of the organization's operating funds come from the 18-cents a pound processing fee it gets from its member agencies. United Way funds account for the next largest portion of the food bank's budget, followed by the fall mail appeal, then corporate donations.

He said seeking support from businesses is one thing a new director will have to concentrate on. But even he admits it won't be that simple.

"The problem we've always had is that by the time a director is done supervising day-to-day operations and doing the things they have to do in the community, they get distracted," Fisher said. "It's been that way since (the food bank) existed. That's always been the problem, and we're just going to have to change."

As for the food bank's present financial situation, Fisher said he believes it will meet all its current obligations. But he said that's partially because of financial support from board members.

"I hate to admit that board members have loaned money for emergency funds," he said. "That's a terrible way to run your organization.

"But we don't know what else to do. We have demands, and we have to meet them," he added. "We've done it before; last year and the year before that."

Fisher said the food bank's board of directors has received three applications for executive director so far, but no interviews have been conducted yet. The job was advertised briefly, and may be again, he said. The board has no set deadline for accepting applications.

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