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Thumbs up: Food bank works to restore image

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 10:50 PM

Last year, the Huntington Area Food Bank continued to do what it has always done since it was founded in 1983: supply food to the hungry.

By working with two large agencies and gathering food and cash donations from individuals and other organizations in the Tri-State, it managed to distribute 4.7 million pounds of food to 290 food pantries and the like in a 17-county region.

But early this year, the nonprofit organization suffered a blow -- one that shook many people's confidence in the charity's leadership. The food bank's executive director was charged with embezzling $23,000 -- an amount equal to nearly 5 percent of the cash donations to the food bank last year -- over several months in 2012. Many in the community were particularly troubled to learn that when the accused was hired as executive director, the food bank's board knew she had been convicted previously of embezzlement from another employer.

The food bank's new executive director acknowledges that the agency must work to regain the public's trust in ensuring that money and food donated to it will be used as it was intended.

Several steps toward that end have been taken, the new director, Tiffany Tatum, said last week. Besides her appointment, the board has been revamped after some "soul-searching meetings," according to new board president Debra Johnson-Tourigny.

Among Tatum's goals is to create a clearer and more transparent workplace, including keeping the board well-informed about financial matters. She said the agency's handling of cash also has been modified with multiple staff members tracking cash donations and double-checking totals every step of the way.

The response by the new director and board president has been encouraging. If those at the food bank carry out their duties as advertised, the public's trust should return -- and the food bank can continue performing its important mission unabated.

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