Putney Foodshelf receives nonprofit status


PUTNEY -- The Putney Foodshelf was started in 2005 to support families and individuals who needed a little extra help.

And for the past nine years the foodshelf has existed, to a large extent, due to the support it received.

The foodshelf opened at the Genesis Church of the Brethren, and then when the church closed in 2009, it moved to the Putney Community Center.

Both organizations allowed the foodshelf to store and distribute food inside their buildings, and also gave the foodshelf permission to operate under their previously filed tax exempt status.

Since the Putney Foodshelf opened the need has grown, the group has become stronger with a board and a committed group of volunteers, and now it has officially become its own tax exempt organization.

After waiting about a year for the Internal Revenue Service to make its decision, The Putney Foodshelf this month found out that it has been granted its own 501(c)(3) status.

The nonprofit recognition from the IRS means little to the foodshelf's day-to-day operations; the foodshelf will still open twice a week and offer food to anyone who walks through the doors.

But Putney Foodshelf Board President Susan Kochinskas said the nonprofit status does give the group a more secure organizational foundation, and a greater assurance that it will be around as long as Putney families and individuals need the food to help them get by.

"Ideally we don't want to exist. We don't want there to be need and hunger in our area, but in reality there always will be," Kochinskas said. "Now we have the opportunity to sit down and look forward and dream and vision about what we want to do and where we want to be."

Prior to the IRS non-profit status, the foodshelf was able to receive tax exempt donations through the community center and supporters will still be able to send checks to the foodshelf, though now the money will flow through the group's own account.

The foodshelf decided over the past few years to apply for the non-profit status to differentiate itself from the community center, and the 501(c)(3) status does come with some new responsibilities such as writing up bylaws, keeping meeting notes and maintaining a separate bank account.

All of it, Kochinskas said, will ultimately make the foodshelf a stronger organization.

"We have a specific mission and this will make sure we have a strong infrastructure to protect ourselves," she said. "There may be a time when we are not at the community center, or when some of the board members who are here now have to move on. We want to stay healthy for as long as we are in existence."

The Putney Foodshelf is open Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 10 a.m.

Each week more than 900 pounds of food are given out to between 50 and 60 individuals or family members at the foodshelf, which is located at the Putney Community Center at 10 Christian Square.

Kochinskas said the foodshelf allows anyone who shows up to leave with food.

The foodshelf does not record anyone's name, nor does it ask if the client is a Putney resident.

It took the IRS about a year to make a decision, and Kochinskas said during that time the foodshelf opened up every Tuesday and Saturday, and every time it opened, regardless of weather or if it was a holiday, someone walked through the doors looking for food.

The same thing will likely happen this week, and next, and beyond that, but as the foodshelf continues to do its work Kochinskas said its future is a little more secure.

"Nothing changes. We will still do the work we do but now we can go after grants and maybe start new programs," she said. "This gives us a little more credibility and allows us to go forward, and dream, and do even more."

For more information on the Putney Foodshelf call Putney Family Services at 387-2120. Monetary donations can be sent to P.O. Box 337, Putney, Vt. 05346.

The foodshelf also has a dropbox outside the community center for nonperishable donations.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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