New directors, volunteers try to revitalize Sanpete Pantry
By Robert Stevens
MT. PLEASANT— New blood is breathing new life into Sanpete County’s only food bank.
The Sanpete Pantry was on its deathbed due to lack of funding, but newly appointed directors and an influx of several enthusiastic volunteers have the wheels moving again. Funds have also been secured to keep the doors open well into next year.
David and Lurlynn Potter of Spring City were recently appointed by the Sanpete Pantry Board to be co-directors in the wake of former director Sean Kearney’s resignation and the announcement that the pantry did not have the funds to stay open any longer.
At least six members of the pantry board resigned along with Kearney in protest after being declined funding by the county commission to keep the struggling charitable organization open in October.
Pantry employee Guy Gee kept the food bank functioning during the process of closing down, but now the Potters and other volunteers have begun to get operations back on track.
Lurlynn says the couple had long held an interest in being involved with a food bank. David, who is retired, writes software specifically for food banks, and it is used in many places across the U.S. Lurlynn has a background in marketing and administration, and she has been pursuing her masters in elementary education.
Being well suited for the position, the couple seized the opportunity to volunteer at the pantry.
“We just really wanted to do something to help,” Lurlynn says. “So we made the jump and went for it.”
Lurlynn says several specific efforts are now being made to boost the pantry’s long term chances of survival.
The first of which is the search for more funding. In the short time since their appointment, the Potters have finalized several new grants—including a Larry H. Miller grant. Lurlynn has experience applying for grants and says she plans to pursue many more.
The 501(c)(3) fundraising arm of the pantry, Drive4Food, is also being resurrected. Drive4Food was once responsible for raising nearly a quarter of the pantry’s entire yearly operating budget, but the loss of key volunteers left it defunct. Recent efforts from the Potters and new pantry volunteer Elizabeth Fackrell have helped restore it and the fundraising events that went with it.
Lurlynn credits Fackrell and other new volunteers with the positive direction of things.
“When we get a handful of these people in a room together I can just feel the energy,” Lurlynn says. “So we are focusing that energy on important things like tightening our belt and running efficient.”
In addition to bringing the pantry back into the black year-round, the Potters say they have other goals in mind too, including improvements to the pantry building itself.
“We really want to focus on helping the dignity of the people that come into the pantry,” Lurlynn says. “New carpet, a nicer feel, just make it a little nicer.”
To accomplish these goals and more, the pantry’s two principal needs are the same as ever: funding and volunteers.
Although the pantry is funded into next year, a shortfall of nearly $20,000 is still predicted until more funding is secured via grants, fundraising or individual donations. The decline of Drive4Food is paralleled by a decline in donations, which are important to overall funding because more donations can also lead to more grant money.
Volunteers are needed equally as bad, Lurlynn says. Manpower is needed for important jobs such as manning the pantry building, driving delivery trucks, building maintenance, fundraising, stocking shelves and more.
The Potters say they have a good feeling about the direction of the pantry, but that it wouldn’t even exist without the efforts of those who came before them.
“It is with profound thanks and gratitude that we respectfully acknowledge the contributions of employees and volunteers (past, present and future) who are the backbone of Sanpete Pantry; without whom its doors would have closed long ago,” Lurlynn says. “Furthermore, the astounding consistent generosity of local businesses, as well as larger philanthropist corporations and organizations who rise to the call for help year after year, allow us to feed the needy of Sanpete County one family at a time.”