The sign for the new South Burlington Food Shelf was raised last Friday over what will be the non-profit’s home at 356 Dorset Street.
“This is pretty meaningful,” Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard said. “This sends a message to the public that it’s coming, we’re making progress.”
Organizers hope to open the doors by September.
Patrick Leduc, along with other South Burlington faith-group leaders including Hubbard and City Manager Kevin Dorn, banned together about a year ago to plan Faith Influenced Leaders Corporation, the 501c3 organization behind the food shelf. South Burlington currently lacks a scale level food shelf to help its food insecure residents. Leduc said he’s not sure why there hasn’t been a food shelf in the past but that the need is certainly there.
“South Burlington, even internally, self-reflective, is a pretty affluent community,” he said. “But when you start looking around and talking to people you realize there are people that are food insecure.”
About 550 students are eligible for free and reduced lunch at South Burlington School District. Student need can be used as a measure for a community’s food insecurity, according to a press release sent out by the Faith Influenced Leaders Corporation. And while Hubbard isn’t sure how many residents will use the food shelf, he says research supports the need.
“We’re pretty confident that there’s enough [people] that are going to use it,” he said. “I think it’s going to grow in interest.”
But first the facility will need some TLC.
“It’s pretty rough inside right now, we’ve got some work to clean out the old stuff,” Leduc said.
“We’re hoping to get a good number of [volunteers].”
There will be an executive director. Dorn announced at the city council meeting Monday that Peter Carmolli will serve as the food shelf’s part-time executive director. Carmolli previously served as executive director of Burlington Meals on Wheels.
Work on the old office/warehouse space will include internal and external painting, fitting shelves and other quality work, according to Leduc. Faith groups, as well as organizations like the Rotary, Knights of Columbus and some individuals are already on board to help prepare the space for its grand opening. But, Leduc said, there’s always a need for volunteers, including people to run the space when it opens.
Once complete, patrons will enter the finished facility through a rear door. Inside, they’ll select their goods and exit through a side door which will be screened from the road, Leduc said.
“We really want it to be a very dignified location,” he said. “People that are food insecure, they don’t need to be treated poorly, they just need some assistance.”
Building owner Brian Cairns has agreed to rent the space to the nonprofit for about $1,000 per month, Leduc said. A website where residents can make financial contributions will soon be live.
About a year ago, a group of eight faith-based leaders began discussions around a food shelf over breakfast meetings. They began a several-months-long process touring food shelves in the area.
From there, they began efforts to raise funds and find a space. This December, the city council pledged $2,000 to the cause. According to Leduc, the group considered several locations around South Burlington, including one on Williston Road, but the Dorset Street location was the best fit for the organization’s needs.
“It’s not a city project by any stretch but they’re adopting [it], because this is a very powerful thing for the community,” Leduc said. “Just about every faith community in South Burlington is part of this in some form.”
According to Hubbard, that was part of the Faith Influenced Leaders Corporation’s idea: to bring local faith groups together and work on a project to help the community.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of things that have come forth that have really brought the different faith communities together,” Hubbard said. “They’ve done that, they’ve stepped up. It’s been fun to see and it’s been fun to work with.”