Non-profit leaders say that RIC-Rack Food Bank in Dawson County is set to merge with The Place of Forsyth County to allow for both nonprofit organizations to expand their reach and services in the coming months.
According to a press release by RIC-Rack, the growth that Dawson County has experienced has led the local food bank to look for a way to grow with it. Merging with The Place will allow the organization a greater reach throughout the county, the release said.
“Over the past four years, we have been looking at ways to expand the services of RIC-Rack within Dawson County; as the county has grown, so have the needs of our area residents,” RIC-Rack Chairman Bob Inman said in the release. “This merger removes the geographic barrier for The Place to serve in Dawson County, and will help bring additional resources to meet the increasing needs in this community.”
According to The Place of Forsyth CEO Joni Smith, prior to the merger The Place was already doing all it could to fill in any gaps of need in Dawson County, but the merger will help her group more effectively locate and fill these gaps.
“Our mission is to serve the Forsyth County area and we’ve always seen Dawson as an extension of that, so we wanted to have a better presence,” Smith said. “We had a meeting at least a year and a half ago with other nonprofits and after that meeting RIC-Rack contacted us, we started talking and it seemed like a really good fit.”
According to RIC-Rack Board Member Mike Poynter, they are excited to combine forces with The Place to offer services they previously couldn’t.
“They do have a thrift store which RIC-Rack has, and they have a food bank which is a small part of what they do, whereas with RIC-Rack the food bank is an enormous part of what we do,” Poynter said. “So the food bank and thrift store will stay in full operation, there will be no change in what RIC-Rack is doing, but The Place will bring additional services too.”
Smith said that new services brought to Dawson will be tailored specifically to the community’s needs. To do this, the organization will assess what programs already exist in Dawson County and look for ways to either help other nonprofits in their efforts or to offset additional needs.
“We’ll bring what there’s a need for — for example, we do a huge Christmas program, but Dawson County already has a great Christmas program so there’s no need for us to bring that program there,” Smith said. “We offer a plethora of services [in Forsyth County] to the community — senior outreach, a lot of programs for at-risk youth, some adult training, different classes, financial assistance — so it just seems like a great partnership to be able to allow us to come and explore what other services are needed [in Dawson County].”
According to Poynter, the merger between RIC-Rack and The Place won’t be like RIC-Rack “handing the keys over”, but rather there will be collaboration between the board members and staff from both organizations.
“A few of us are going to be on board position seats with The Place and the transitional board, so there will still be a lot of input from the RIC-Rack board as to how things unfold over the next several months,” Poynter said.
In addition to getting the input from RIC-Rack board members, Smith said that they plan on hiring an outreach coordinator to analyze what services are needed in Dawson County. Smith said that they hope to start a “Dawson advisory council”, similar to the one they already have in Forsyth County.
“We will be starting a Dawson advisory council that we’ll try to meet twice a year, so people that live or work there that have a vested interest in the community can learn about our organization but also share their thoughts and ideas,” Smith said. “So it’s a two-way communication and a way for people in the community to have a role in helping us determine what programs are needed.”
Smith said that through the merger, she also hopes to partner alongside other local nonprofits in Dawson County to help them extend their reach too.
“We’re really big on partnering with other nonprofits to make sure that what our role is is beneficial to the community,” Smith said. “So we’re looking for partnerships where we can come alongside a nonprofit to extend their reach.”
Poynter said that Smith’s leadership, along with the staff and board members of The Place, will be a welcome boost to RIC-Rack and its mission in the community.
“They have a full-time CEO who’s very bright and very capable and this is her job and she’ll be bringing a lot of that knowledge to the RIC-Rack as well,” Poynter said. "They’re really good people - I’ve gotten to know them well over the whole process - so it’s a very positive move for the whole community.”
Smith said that she and her organization look forward to expanding into the Dawson community, and that she is looking forward to getting to know RIC-Rack staff, other local nonprofits and the community throughout the transition process.
“We’re really excited to start being present there more so than we are; we’re excited to get to know RIC-Rack more, their staff and really just the community,” Smith said. “We have wanted to extend our outreach, and this is the perfect partnership to help us do that.”