MADISON — The new chairwoman of the board of the People Who Care Food Cupboard said Tuesday night she is shocked and hurt by criticism levied at her during a public hearing where some residents questioned her leadership.

“It’s hurtful when you give up all your time, your life for a nonprofit,” said Shannon Drury, board chairwoman of the People Who Care Food Cupboard. “It hurts when people in your own town come against you for doing good.”

The food cupboard, which operates at the Old Point Avenue School, owned by the town of Madison, serves 2,736 households in Anson, Embden, New Portland and Madison, according to Drury, who took over as board chairwoman in July.

She was hired previously as executive director to replace the longtime director, Barbara Santiago, who had been doing the job for no pay and retired in April.

Drury, a former volunteer who was selected to replace Santiago, said she was later voted in as chairwoman of the board of the nonprofit organization, so she resigned as executive director. She currently receives a stipend of $300 per week for her work and said she works “80 to 90 hours per week.”

Although it is a nonprofit, a majority of the food cupboard’s funding comes from the town governments of the communities it serves.

For 2019 the cupboard is scheduled to collect $28,250 in revenue from the four towns. The remainder of its revenue comes from solicitations, general donations, fundraising and grants, for a total budgeted revenue of $52,350, according to numbers provided at Tuesday’s meeting.

Madison Town Manager Tim Curtis said Tuesday night the Board of Selectmen sought to hold a public hearing where members of the food cupboard’s board and town officials could meet and where residents could voice concerns.

He said there has been turnover among the leaders of the food cupboard as well as a number of emails, calls and visits to the Town Office in which residents have expressed concerns about the food cupboard’s hours and operations.

He also said he has heard from some residents who think the town wants to take over or change the operations of the cupboard, though that is not the case.

“We’re so blessed to have this building, especially in this economy,” said Drury, who thanked town officials and also said some of the miscommunication has resulted from the food cupboard’s closure in December because of a lack of volunteers during the holidays.

Selectman George Elias expressed concern that over the last few years, revenue for the cupboard has decreased while expenses and volunteer stipends have increased.

In 2015, the cupboard took in $65,931 in revenue in 2015, according to the numbers provided Tuesday night. Expenses were $45,986 and included $1,324 for volunteer stipends.

In 2018, revenue was $44,994 and expenses were $55,431, including $11,781 for volunteer stipends.

“When people find one-third or one-fourth of the budget is going to salaries, it’s going to be harder to get donations,” Elias said.

Drury said she knows the cupboard’s finances are a problem, but they have been unable to hire an executive director to do the work for no pay since Santiago left.

“If we could find a volunteer who would fulfill my position, I would do that in a heartbeat,” she said.

Comments from residents Tuesday night were mixed, with some praising the work Drury has done so far while others criticized her for changes made on the board and in operations.

“She is doing a tremendous job,” said Pam Miller, of Embden. “We’ve seen big changes in the food cupboard. I’ve seen elderly friends who could not get down to it and now, slowly but surely, they are coming to get their food. She is doing a tremendous job.”

James Rosado, a volunteer at the food cupboard, also said changes have been for the better.

“In my book, they are taking care of more people and the food has gotten better,” Rosado said. “And the quality of the communication between the clients and volunteers is better. I just wanted to say that. She’s doing something right.”

But one former board member, Roger Sirois, said he was pushed out recently after asking questions Drury didn’t like.

“I volunteered there for eight years and the first 7.5 were lovely,” Sirois said. “The last few months were very difficult. I served on the board, and whether this is germane to the issue or not, I was dismissed for asking questions about the agreements they made with hiring Shannon. I think as a board member one should feel free to ask questions that pertain to the running of the food cupboard and the promises made.”

Tammy Murray, administrative assistant in Anson, also asked why the board is “hand picking” volunteers.

“I think all volunteers should be accepted,” she said. “Everyone has something they can contribute to the community.”

Murray also said Drury should be more forthcoming with the fact that money raised in the community is being used to pay her stipend.

“When we’re giving you money from (both Anson and Madison), people want to know where that money is going,” she said. “We want to be able to tell them where the stipend is going.”

Drury said the money for her stipend does not come from taxpayer dollars, but rather from contributions raised in the community. She said taxpayer money is put strictly toward food cupboard clients.

“It needs to be clear when you’re fundraising what the money is going to, that’s all,” Murray said.

Drury said after the meeting there has been a lot of turnover in board leadership recently.

“We believe clients who are elderly and mentally ill needed to be treated with the utmost respect, and we expect everyone on the board to do the same,” she said when asked what a possible reason for the turnover might be.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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