Feb. 16, 2019 — “I’m pleasantly surprised by what I’m seeing at Florence Food Share,” Ed Monks said. “Just really across the board: Employees, volunteers, board. There’s not a weak spot in that. That’s kind of crucial to a nonprofit. You need an active and involved board, and you need volunteers. You can’t pay a lot of personnel costs. To get people who want to be there, who enjoy being there, who the clients enjoy having there, that’s just win, win, win. That’s the story.”
Monks is stepping in as interim director for the food share after David Montes recently vacated his position. While he has been a lawyer for decades, Monks has been extremely active in social services in Eugene, working formerly as the Executive Director of Catholic Community Services of Lane County. He still lives there full time, keeping a small home in the Siuslaw region he gets to visit from time to time.
He decided to apply for the interim position because he “thought it would be a good way to get further engaged in the community.”
Monks initially came in to talk about what the program is looking for in its search for a new executive director:
Nonprofit experience, accounting, grant applications, financial reporting and someone who can manage a staff — The usual stuff.
“Food Share wanted to take a little time to get themselves a qualified executive director, and advertise for an interim position,” he said.
Considering his wealth of experience in the nonprofit service sector, Monks offered what he saw were the differences between social service organizations in an urban area like Eugene, versus the slower pace of Florence.
“We ran big one-stop service centers there, and there would be many people coming for many reasons,” Monks said about his previous work. “We’d do 1.4 million pounds of food a year to thousands of people through two big service centers. But we did a lot of other things as well. We did housing, energy assistance, case management, counseling.”
However, “Florence Food Share is, essentially, one reason: Food. It’s a different situation,” he said. “But our food share has a good relationship with SOS (Siuslaw Outreach Services) and other community organizations, and that’s good for everybody. So, when all is said and done, there’s more similarity than difference.”
As far as he can tell, Monks said the biggest similarity is how volunteers and staff work with those who use the services.
“You have a greeter and an intake person; you have the opportunity to talk to the customer; and sometimes you can identify issues they may be having. It becomes an opportunity to gently suggest other possible services that they might wish to access,” Monks said. “Or, sometimes they ask about other possible services. Obviously, it doesn’t apply to all customers, but it’s not inconceivable that someone will show up with a mental health issue, or a substance abuse issue — or both of those issues. And to use this interaction around food, to help get them to a place that’s beneficial to them, is a good thing.”
As for Eugene?
“Sometimes the interaction can be a bit more difficult,” he said. “There’s more street people, more mental health issues. But the goal is beyond that stuff and get to what I was describing in Florence.”
The largest differences are in population and the needs of the different cities. While Florence has a storied history with available housing, Monks said it has nothing on Eugene.
“Oh yeah, the lack of affordable housing in Eugene is substantial,” he said. “Rents have been going up pretty dramatically, even though the university is building a bunch of student housing. For the last five years rents have been going up. I know it may feel like Florence has a high cost of housing, and there is a big shortage, but it’s more acute in Eugene.”
Monks said this has led to a harsher environment in the city, more homelessness, a greater stress on mental health services.
“My impression is that a greater percentage of the low-income population in Florence is at least housed,” he said. “That might be in that category of the working poor, but they’re living in a basically acceptable living situation, even if they’re on the margin. Hence in Eugene, where you have more homeless on the street, in the missions, in the warming center, sometimes their needs are more acute.”
Which is why working as the interim at Florence Food Share has been such a surprise for him.
“They come to the pantry and are, by and large, remarkably well behaved,” Monks said. “They interact in a healthy way with the staff and the volunteers. Staff and volunteers interact back with them in a healthy way. In my sense is, part of being in a small town where you will see, around town, the people that you’re dealing with, makes it less likely you’re going to be a difficult person to deal with. It’s one of the benefits of a small town.”