Vonnie Lavers was a formidable fundraiser for the Kelowna Community Food Bank during her time as
executive director. A search is now underway to find her replacement.
Vonnie Lavers, who advocated forcefully for hungry families, parted ways with the non-profit group after a series of meetings in late August. She accepted a severance package and it wasn't a nasty split, said Clint Sharples, who chairs the board of directors.
"This is a resignation. There
wasn't a whole lot of choice in the resignation, but there wasn't any fight here," he said Tuesday.
"Everyone has a shelf life. And she agreed . . . There comes a time in every organization when you look at a changeover in leadership, and both sides know it's right. This is very amicable."
Lavers, now in her early 50s, took over as manager of the eight-year-old food bank in 2002. She transformed it from a small-scale charity to the third largest food bank in B.C.
A formidable fundraiser, she never shied away from asking business executives for donations or grocery owners for food. In 2006, she re-branded the food bank with the message that poverty is driving families to use it and they aren't freeloading.
"She built a great team and raised the level of not just chronic hunger in the Okanagan, but also the level of poverty that exists in the Valley. For a rich valley, we have a lot of poor people," said Sharples.
The Ellis Street warehouse served 32,000 clients and gave out $2.5 million worth of food last year, said Fraser Campbell, a board member and now acting executive director. Staff are delivering better food, consulting families and seniors about nutrition, and educating expectant mothers.
Since Lavers arrived, the food bank has distributed 52 per cent more hampers even though one now costs $175 - more than twice as much, Campbell said. It employs five paid staff and a contingent of volunteers.
The board is now searching for a replacement. The main reason they never publicized Lavers' departure is they didn't have anyone in place when she left, Sharples said.
"We thought the optics would be 'Vonnie was terminated for doing something really bad' when in fact she wasn't . . . Until we find our new executive director, we weren't going to make a big splash of it. Vonnie didn't want it to be a big splash."
Despite email requests for an interview, Lavers didn't respond Tuesday. She's believed to be on the East Coast visiting her mother, who's ill.
Board-members have candidates in mind to take over the food bank, which will restructure and move in a new direction, said Campbell. The job posting will go up in a couple of weeks.
The organization plans to honour Lavers with a community dinner when she returns to Kelowna, said Sharples.
"She's a very knowledgeable lady who put a sense of order in the organization â€¦ We've got people we're talking to right now - people who Vonnie has recommended."