Many residents are left hungry with very limited open hours at Smiths Falls food bank. Meanwhile, policy only serves to protect the board of directors from accountability and transparency, though it is not actually in bylaws (included below.)
Almost every week in local media, we see advertisements for non-profit charities seeking board members to help govern their organizations. And when we visit the websites of these organizations, we are certain to find the bylaws or policies that are governing this recruitment process. We’d expect to see other governing documents, policies, annual reports, financial statements, etc. Even if we didn’t, we wouldn’t expect it to bother anyone if we requested to see it. Chances are these agencies need volunteers too, right? This is what a reasonable person would expect in the non-profit sector that accepts money from the public. We know that transparency, accountability, and community engagement are good practices. Mandated or not. Covid or not.
There is an agency in Smiths Falls that has been challenging these norms. They do not accept volunteers or board members and you will not be able to find any of the governing documents they may quote to explain why. Several board members of the Smiths Falls Community Food Bank have taken to Facebook to explain. If you know the non-profit sector, your eyebrows may already be raised. Several members spoke publicly to these raised issues, a non-profit no-no. Ordinarily, there would be a policy that designates one person to speak for the board, usually the Chair.
Shared (and pinned) to this food bank’s Facebook page, you’ll find one such diatribe of board member Leigh Craig, of no official position according to their website, explain why no one can volunteer or join the board right now. After saying new volunteers were unsafe during Covid, she then explains how you must be a volunteer for a year before you can become a board member. She expresses how it “bothers” her that “so many people want to know so many details,” in response to what I can only assume was the question this begged; How do you sustain board membership then?
Having community support through volunteerism is critical to almost every non-profit agency out there. Hungry families need the extra support they can provide, like more open hours. Having a functional board of directors is a requisite to remain compliant with non-profit law. The board does not seem interested in sustaining this either. They also don’t appear to grasp why the donating public is rightly concerned with this model. Until the board changes these policies that also serve to keep the public out from voting on these policies, the community should continue to pressure this board to do better. Covid is not going away anytime soon. The times when we could justify waiting out the pandemic are over and hungry families can’t afford to wait any longer. Most of us have adapted and found a way to live through these waves of uncertainty. This board should be modelling that resilience, not fighting it on social media. Inertia is the enemy of change and to winning the fight against hunger in Smiths Falls. It is also a terrible injustice to the people they serve.