Two Harbors Food Shelf gets new director
About five years ago, Michelle Miller found herself going to her local food shelf to get assistances for her and her two teenage boys.
"It was the most amazing thing that they filled my trunk with about $250 worth of groceries, and I just started bawling," she said.
This life event gives Miller a unique perspective as she steps into her role as the new Two Harbors Food Shelf executive director.
Miller took over as executive director on Sept. 21 with the help of her predecessor Cindy Edwards. Edwards left her job after moving out of the area, but plans to return some day to Two Harbors. Miller had three weeks with Edwards to learn how to do the job and began working solo Oct. 10.
Miller worked at Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) where the food shelf is currently housed. She was the RSVP volunteer coordinator and worked closely with the volunteers at the food shelf. With her 25 years of nonprofit experience, the executive director position at the food shelf seemed like a good fit, she said.
"Being in the same building and seeing how hard Cindy had worked — because she was the first paid director of the organization as of a year and a half ago — and seeing all the progress that she had made, I felt like I needed to continue on the path that she was doing," Miller said. "Not to say that someone else couldn't do it, but working so close with the food shelf for so long in another position I felt commitment to continue to see it grow."
When asked what she wanted to continue that Edwards was doing, Miller said she really wanted to continue to provide individuals who need the food shelf's services with high quality products and lots of variety.
"So that's providing a variety of foods that can be cooked in a variety of ways, to be healthy foods and to find those foods for special diets," she said. "And not only for edible items, but also those paper and other products as well. And that stuff is harder to get grants and funding for."
Though she wants to make sure the food shelf stays on its path, Miller does plan on making some changes. One of the big changes is branding.
"We have a newly developed logo and we are going to be launching our new website in November," she said. "A lot of people don't even know where the food shelf is, so we want that message out there about what our hours are, where we're located, who we are and how to get in touch with us. We don't want to be the best kept secret in Two Harbors."
One of the other changes Miller is hoping to accomplish in her tenure is to find the food shelf its own building and own location.
"We've been in talks for over a year of finding a facility of our own," Miller said. "We're just outgrowing our current space."
The biggest thing they are looking for in a new building is having a commercial safe kitchen so they are able to break down large quantities of food.
"When we get large quantities of meat or other food products, we aren't licensed to break those down," Miller said. "What family could use 20 pounds of chicken or even store it?"
Though it would cut down the cost of food to buy in bulk, Miller said the food shelf avoids buying in bulk because of not having the kitchen to break it down.
"Finding a facility is a long process and it's going to take a very dedicated group of people to get it done," she said.
Miller said she has worked as an interim executive director for other organizations, but never was the full time executive director until now. She was hired after a three month search and after being in the job for about a month now, Miller said she's loving it.
"The volunteers that are in place are like a well oiled machine," she said. "I'm not responsible for the day to day function of what happens, I'm overseeing the bigger picture. And I don't need to have my hands in the day to day functions because the volunteers are very skilled and capable and extremely dedicated."
With people asking her about her new job, Miller said she finds herself talking so passionately about it. After having her own experience with a food shelf, Miller said she understands more about the importance of it and that there's no judgement.
"You can be a one time visitor or you can be a monthly visitor, it doesn't matter," she said. "That's something that hits home for me, and as sad as it is, I don't hink hungry families are going to go away anytime soon, and I would love not to have a job."
Miller said giving and serving has just always been a part of her makeup, and that she's very mission driven.
"After this long of a journey... I have no desire to move away from Two Harbors. This is the end of the road for me," she said. "There's no other place I would rather live. You can't move up from here, this is the most awesome place to be. I see myself being in this position for a very long time."
The Two Harbors Food Shelf is located at 2124 10th Street, Two Harbors, MN. Distribution days are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday with office hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Call (218) 391-8191 for more information.