Better Together: Non-Profit Partnerships Offer Great Results for All Involved
Volunteers put together boxes on distribution day at Cumberland Community Cares.
The last 6 weeks have certainly presented a number of challenges for all of us. It’s been a wild ride, and all indications are that we may be on it for a while longer, so hold on to your hats! But there are some positive developments to come out of this situation, and one of them is the collaboration, teamwork, and community spirit that have become evident as we all find ways to forge a stronger local food community. One such development has been a great new partnership between The Center for Rural Culture (CRC) and Cumberland Community Cares (CCC).
As more and more new members joined us and orders began to rise exponentially in the first weeks of the pandemic, the staff at FLF&LR and the board of the CRC have been in constant communication. Working together, we’ve figured out how to expand our market to about 4 or 5 times its original size. That kind of expansion sounds wonderful--and it is. But there are major staffing and logistical challenges that arise when you have to expand your infrastructure that much and that quickly. Happily, our team has been able to rise to the occasion.
Volunteers are a vital part of our team. We depend heavily on them to help drive orders to pickup locations and to staff those locations on Thursdays. But four or five times the usual number of orders means four or five times the number of drivers and vehicles to transport all of that great stuff to its destination and hand it out once it arrives. That’s a pretty tall order. So what’s a growing non-profit to do? Collaborate! Our solution was working with another non-profit to create a win-win situation that allows for each organization to better meet its constituents’ needs.
That’s where Cumberland Community Cares comes in. They’re a 501c3 organization that runs the food bank in Cumberland County. They also administrate the food box program for seniors and handle the food distribution on Fridays for county residents. They’re partnered with a larger non-profit organization, Feed More, which covers all of Central Virginia. Feed More provides the bulk of the food for CCC’s distribution. That food is donated by businesses like Food Lion and Target, as well as by individuals and other sources. In fact, some of the Pounds of Plenty* orders that our FLF&LR members purchase for donation to a local food bank actually go to this organization.
Unloading the donated freezers from the CCC's new truck.
A short while ago, someone made the generous donation of some freezers and a refrigerated box truck to Cumberland Community Cares. That gift has allowed CCC to transport food safely from the regional aggregation center at Feed More back to Cumberland for distribution on Fridays. Our CRC board president, Catherine Fleischman, and Doris Seal, President of Cumberland Community Cares, recognized an opportunity for an arrangement that would benefit both CCC and the CRC, and a new partnership was made.
Doris Seal, President of CCC, models a mask made by a community member.
The CCC’s box truck wasn’t being used on Thursdays, which is FLF&LR’s delivery day. So a plan was hatched: the Center for Rural Culture would partner with Cumberland Community Cares to help pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the truck, in exchange for the use of it on Thursdays. Now, both organizations are enjoying the benefits of this collaboration. This is just one of the ways in which our organization has worked to expand our system, but it’s one of the aspects of our expansion that we’re really proud of. Everybody wins.
Catherine Fleischman, CRC Board President and owner of MHenry Design, delivers flowers to CCC on Fridays for distribution with the food.
We might be navigating some challenges right now in Central Virginia—just like the rest of the nation and the world. Certainly, there are parts of this situation that are causes for deep concern. But getting through it will be easier if we look around and recognize that we have blessings, too. We have talented farmers and foodmakers in our region, and because of the relative diversity of our local food system, we have the potential for more food security than in places where there are fewer small farms and more large, mono-crop establishments. As we forge new partnerships and find new ways to support our small local farms, we hope to find more opportunities to serve our members and our communities by partnering with like-minded organizations.
You can learn more about Cumberland Community Cares and what they do by visiting and liking their Facebook page.
*Pounds of Plenty is a regular program in which our producers choose items from their stock, price them at a slight discount, and offer them for sale. But instead of ordering for themselves, those members are ordering these items as donations to a local food bank. FLF&LR delivers these to the food banks on the members’ behalf. We very much appreciate both the generosity of the producers who discount their products, and the members who keep the donations coming!