The story of Margaret Pemberton’s role in Feeding Middlesex County goes back to the very beginning of the organization.
See, Margaret was the founding - and only - secretary the non-profit has had. She was there from the start as the 18-year Clerk to the Middlesex County Commissioners (then Freeholders), hearing the challenges facing the county food bank, REPLENISH (then called MCFOODS).
Acquiring food to distribute to county residents in need involved a complicated bidding and procurement process, and as a government entity, there was no easy way for REPLENISH to utilize donations from the generous public that would be tax-deductible. So a separate non-profit was formed under Internal Revenue Service Code Chapter 501, section C, subsection 3, dealing with non-profits for social welfare.
“We decided to form the 501c3 because we could buy what MCFOODS needed in a timely manner,” Pemberton recounted.
One of the other benefits was that the Feeding Middlesex County could pursue state, federal, and private grants, something that wasn’t usually available to government.
Pemberton and a handful of other county executives like retired Freeholder Jane Brady, county Improvement Authority Administrator Jane Leal, and Northfield Bank executive Angie Tsirkas, came together to form the core of the new non-profit.
To demonstrate how FMC has evolved, Pemberton recalled the budget for that inaugural year: With nothing to base it on, they figured on $50,000. They ended up with about $55,000. Last year, the organization’s budget topped $500,000 – which may deserve an asterisk because of pandemic aid.
Her duties as secretary can range up to full-time in the busy weeks. The work includes monitoring the e-mail, and hard mail at the post office box, bank deposits, manning the food collection table at events, meeting prep for the 15-member board, or intangible networking to spread the word about FMC‘s work, to recruit new supporters.
While she’s always participated in postal carriers’ collection of food on their routes, or the food bank’s annual employee food drive, why did this cause become one of her central commitments?
“No one should have to worry about where their food is coming from and being food insecure. And especially in a state as affluent and a county as affluent as we are, no one should have to worry.”
And the work of FMC in particular, she said, is close to home.
“It's local. These people are our neighbors, our coworkers, and we may not realize their struggle. This is not in your face. When the cupboard is bare, we don’t see that from the next street.”
Please note that Margaret’s volunteer and charitable work to create a better community will be honored on November 9th by Mayor Cohen’s Charity Fund at The Park Chateau in East Brunswick.
[article written by FMC Communications Committee member George Francy]