Editor's Note: After a reader raised questions after the pantry's first response, Cheryl Campbell posted a second response, which is below the first response here:
By Cheryl T. Campbell
I was recently made aware of a post by by that helped to raise the awareness of summer demands on our local food pantries (http://patch.com/A-wbsz).
The post elicited a comment from a resident who is unhappy with the way the food pantry is run and although it is not my intent to “shout Michael down” I do feel the need to respond with the facts since the writer was misinformed on several points. Before addressing Michael's specific concerns one thing should be made very clear.
The “Madison” Food Pantry is NOT funded by the town of Madison. The pantry is run by Madison Community Services, Inc which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has served our town for 82 years through the generosity of volunteers. Funding is provided by residents, local merchants, local civic groups and community religious organizations.
Comment: You must show your license to prove your residency and if not from 06443 you are given a few staples and a list of other towns to find food. Response: We feel strongly that the dignity of our neighbors regardless of their needs should be preserved, so yes, our clients only need to show their license to prove residency. The MCS, Inc food pantry has been cited as one of the best in CT and is used as a model for other programs in the state.
The MCS food pantry is a Supplemental Food Pantry that supplies it’s clients with 3 meals for 3 days. As a courtesy to non-residents who come to our door we supply them with staples that are equivalent to 2 meals for one day and a list of resources to get them the services they require.
Comment: By denying food to non-Madison hungry this pantry is blocked by Federal mandate from using the New Haven food bank to stock their shelves. Response: The New Haven food bank is a member agency of the Connecticut Food Bank. MCS Inc does participate in the Connecticut Food Bank program and we shop every Tuesday at their main warehouse which is located in East Haven. MCS, Inc has never had their funding restricted by Federal mandates, we choose not to pursue federal funding because of the imposed restrictions that come with it.
Comment: But it is a shame that Madison can’t offer the variety and healthy choices other food banks have. Response: MCS, Inc offers an abundance of healthy choices to our clients. Protein meals, fresh produce and dairy are available each week and are purchased through the CT Food Bank and local distributers. More importantly, Madison takes care of it’s neighbors and it is through the generosity of local businesses that we are able to provide a selection of frozen meats offered by Stop & Shop and native produce from the Bauer Farm Community Gardens. Breads, pastries and bagels are also offered because local merchant such as Robert’s, Cohen's Bagels, Cumberland Farms and Subway deeply care for their community. We are also blessed to have N2N, another Madison non-profit, provide our clients with personal care items each week.
Comment: I have heard all the arguments that there is not space and staff but I find it ironic that every town but Madison has overcome this problem. Response: In 2008 the MCS, Inc food pantry moved from a 6 x 10 ft closet space to a larger space donated by the First Congregational Church. We were able to expand our services during this time because of their support, but it still proved inadequate for the growing needs of our community. In April of 2011 we moved again, this time to a 1600 square foot commercial facility located at 50 Mungertown Road.
MCS, Inc does not have a “Staff” of paid employees. Instead we have a number of caring individuals who dedicate themselves to providing a variety of services including medical transportation for our seniors and tutoring programs for our youth. The volunteers that run our food pantry work countless hours to make it run smoothly.
Comment: This is not a surprise set of facts to Madison citizens who hope there could be a change but we are just over ruled by the Madison-Only style of leadership that is all too pervasive in town. Response: If you desire a change in leadership then stand up and lead. I invite every Madison citizen to take action by volunteering. There are many civic and non profit organizations who need your help.
On a personal note, I would like to say that I believe it takes one person to create a ripple of change in another persons life and a community can effect change throughout our world. I am proud of every volunteer, including myself, who has decided to make a difference in our hometown of Madison, CT .
Cheryl T Campbell
Madison Community Services, Inc
Day 2: Setting the Record Straight Once Again
It saddens me that this type of misinformation is spread about an organization that does so much good for our community. Here are the facts.
Comment: I was an active weekly volunteer at the MCS Food Pantry and after months of looking the other way as bylaws were skirted and federal guidelines were ignored I started asking questions of the leadership of MCS. Reply: Although MCS, Inc has never had a volunteer named Pert Thomas there was an occasion in April of 2011 when a pantry volunteer asked to see some of our public documents and they were sent to him in a timely fashion. As a member of the CT Food Bank we follow their guidelines and and our program has been modeled by other facilities. How can someone “look the other way” before actually seeing the bylaws referred to?
Comment: I wanted to know how decisions were made and who was making them. Reply: Our leadership at the MCS Food Pantry are clearly identified and are always available to answer questions.
Comment: I wanted to know why we as volunteers were being forced to take food away from the clients, many of whom were starving, while at the same time MCS decided to incur a nearly $2000 a month cost for overhead for fancy new space which was inaccessible to many of the people we were serving. Reply: The MCS Food Pantry is a supplemental food pantry which means that we provide three meals a day for three days. CT Food bank requires us to weigh food in and food out. They also provide us with the guideline of 1.3 pounds per meal to help estimate what a family should receive. For example a family of four should have approximately 46.8 pounds of food in their shopping cart at check out. We do not take food away from clients if they are a few ponds over.
We moved to a commercial facility in April 2011 because the donated space we occupied at the time was not adequate in size to serve our growing client base. The original location was not handicap accessible whereas the new location on Mungertown Road is.
Comment: Instead of answers to these and other legitimate questions I was threatened by the organization's lawyer and told I could no longer volunteer to feed the hungry. Reply: After receiving the public documents that the volunteer requested he repeatedly emailed me with questions that pertained to information freely available on our website. I turned the matter over to our attorney when these requests began to be accompanied by veiled threats against our organization.
Comment: I had hoped MCS had gotten their act together but this whole episode and a recent incident where I saw food pantry food being given away at a local bar during happy hour makes me think I was wrong. Reply: I do not know how to respond to this. How does one identify food in a local bar as coming from a food pantry?
Comment: The food pantry does a lot of good but there needs to be an outside investigation into the many issues that are being raised. A little sunlight never hurt anyone and the generous people of Madison deserve to know their generosity is not being abused. Reply: I completely agree. The MCS food pantry does a lot of good, a little sunlight never hurt anyone and the generous people of Madison deserve to know their generosity is not being abused.
As president of MCS, Inc I know that their generosity is not being abused and I hope that my response here offers the “sunlight” that you are referring to. It is always a good thing when our community members are given the facts and not innuendo.
Cheryl T Campbell
Madison Community Services, Inc
MCS, Inc is an all volunteer, 501 (c)(3) compliant, non profit organization. MCS does not receive funding from the Town of Madison, the State of Connecticut or the Federal Government. For more information on how you can help please call 203 245-3031. Our food pantry is located at 50 Mungertown Road, Units 3-4 and is open to Madison residents every Wednesday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. We would be happy to arrange a tour of our facility by appointment.