New board works to rebuild Philomath Community Services after going through turmoil last year

 

The mood was relaxed and light-hearted Wednesday afternoon at Philomath Community Services.

Leota Hutsell, the program manager for Philomath Gleaners, and a handful of volunteers were busy stocking food on shelves.

And Hutsell, who has managed the gleaners program for more than two years, said that the atmosphere is different because of recent changes.

“This board seeks and listens to our input,” Hutsell said. “The previous board talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. The new board is right on top of our needs. They communicate with us.”

After a tumultuous year that led to the departure of former board president Jeff Lamb and several board members, Philomath Community Services is starting anew.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved with PCS,” said Marti Staprans Barlow, the new board president. “We are working from the bottom up.”

Established in 1975, Philomath Community Services has grown into an umbrella organization that supports five local nonprofit ventures in Philomath. The largest is the food bank; the others are the Kids’ Kloset clothing program, the Philomath Gleaners, the Holiday Cheer Christmas charity and the Community Garden.

But last October, internal conflicts emerged into the open when a number of program managers and volunteers held a public meeting to air grievances with the board. Lamb, who was involved with Philomath Community Services since its inception, was the target of most of the grievances and eventually resigned.

Barlow said that the board is working to implement several of the recommendations made by a consulting firm hired by the previous board to help the organization. She said that includes the formation of committees to deal with finances, facilities and fundraising.

Deborah S. Williams, who has donated to Philomath Community Services and started volunteering with the food bank four months ago, is a member of the committee that’s writing polices and procedures.

“There were no written policies that we know of, or that we were able to find about standards or expectations,” Williams said. “So we want to make sure we have something now. That should help us be more focused as we all work toward a common goal.”

Other bylaws that are being worked on include staggering terms for board members and instituting term limits for officers.

“We want to make it so that no one person or group gets too powerful,” Barlow said. “We want to work together.”

Despite last year’s turmoil, Barlow said indications for the organization in the new year are promising.

“We are still figuring out the numbers from our holiday fundraising efforts,” Barlow said. “But I think we are holding steady. We were pleased with how things went. I think people, despite the turmoil we were going through, realized the need to help those in need.”

Barlow said that board members were more worried about retaining the volunteers who oversee the five programs than about losing donations.

As of Wednesday, Barlow said that the board is working to bring back Carey Oien, the former manager of the Kid’s Kloset. She resigned in October after raising concerns about the previous board.

Barlow and board member Gabrielle Mahoney are overseeing the Kid’s Kloset program. Barlow said that experience has given her newfound appreciation for the work that goes on at Philomath Community Services.

“The work that goes on here is amazing,” Barlow said.

Raju Woodward can be contacted at 541-758-9526 or raju.woodward@lee.net.

Raju Woodward is the K-12 education reporter for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9526 or raju.woodward@lee.net

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