February 29, 2016
Food Bank Program Manager, Community Action Program
Carolyn Shewfelt was in a crisis when she suddenly found herself unable to put food on the dinner table for her family. She was juggling a divorce and quickly found her circumstances further complicated by a head-on collision that left her with serious deep tissue damage. As a result of the accident, she was unable to work and provide for her family. “At one point, I remember scraping moldy bits off my last tortilla, spreading some jelly on it, and sending my child to school with that,” Shewfelt explained.
During the 1.5 year duration of her recovery from the accident, she ended up using a local food bank to supplement her family’s food needs. She recalls hearing workers at the food bank mumbling that she didn’t look like she was in need of any help. Visually, she appeared to be healthy and capable. It was not obvious that she had lost so much. Her first experience using a food bank left her feeling very emotional – she sat in her car and sobbed afterward. It was at that moment that she thought to herself, “Someday I will make a difference with those in need.”
Shewfelt brought her passion for community building and all things food-related to Community Action Program (CAP) in September of 2009. She decided to use her background in whole systems design to develop a cohesive and robust local food system.
What changes have you seen over the years vis a vis the local food scene?
The amount of community donations CAP receives have gone down by about one-third over the last couple of years. A larger percentage of the donations are expired items as well, which can still be used, but they must be used selectively. Grocery stores are stocking shelves with less product which has impacted their donations as well.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Reaching out to the homeless was the first thing Shewfelt noticed when she joined the CAP team – there was a large need yet a challenge in effectively serving the homeless population. She has dedicated much of her energy to meeting with community leaders involved in public assistance programs, such as Heritage Health, to develop a program to meet this need.
Another challenge Shewfelt experienced at CAP was because she is a “numbers” person. She manages over 900 different volunteers over the course of a year and has a hard time remembering their names.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
A rewarding aspect of her job is how many people the organization is able to help – CAP served over 6,000 unduplicated families which included over 15,600 individuals in 2015. Shewfelt also finds the love and support of the volunteers, who offer their own time and resources to help others, very rewarding. “I get to watch miracles happen all day through other people’s efforts,” she explained.
When you aren’t busy doing your work, what kinds of things do you like to do?
She loves to work on remodeling projects, and has over the past six years been working on developing a pet safety system for dogs.
What do you envision for the future of our local food system?
Carolyn Shewfelt has dedicated all of her time, energy, and heart into being a committed member of CAP’s team over the last six years. Her dedication to serving the local community has brought about the development and improvement of various social programs as well as tracking systems to help manage the TEFAP Commodities program CAP provides, which is a government assistance program. She helped design the food bank’s remodel in 2013; they were chosen among other candidates on House to Home to receive a complete makeover. She helped update the approach to serving food to families during the holidays and participated in the donation of nearly 2500 Thanksgiving baskets in 2015 with the help of Turkeys For All, a non-profit formed by Jim Myers to help support the holiday box program.
Shewfelt says she has been called to follow her personal passion of developing a safety product for dogs. Her Patent was approved in December 2015. She will be stepping down from her position at CAP in March of 2016. She says she is confident the food bank will continue to thrive with new leadership and is excited to have the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in the future.
Some background info on CAP: The Community Action Program is a non-profit that provides a safety net and springboard for low income residents of Kootenai County. Basic needs services and programs include a food bank, energy assistance and telephone assistance.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]