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Oct 19, 2011 6:16 PM by Andy Koen

Trinidad soup kitchen in peril after donation dispute

Trinidad's only soup kitchen could be forced to close by the end of the week. On Monday, the manager of Fischer's Peak Soup Kitchen was told she can no longer collect donations from the local Wal-Mart, her largest donor.

Wal-Mart stores in Colorado only donate food to Care and Share thanks to an agreement with the food bank's parent organization Feeding America. Fischer's Peak had received food from the Trinidad Wal-Mart on behalf of Care and Share.

However, Chief Programs Officer Melissa Marts says they stopped the soup kitchen from collecting the food because they failed to keep proper records and aren't properly organized as a charity.

"When (Wal-Mart) comes to us and says, how come we haven't had number in six months, where's this food gone, and then we track through the system and also see that this isn't even a 501c3 agency, at this point in time there's a serious concern there."

Care and Share president Lynne Telford says, for credibility sake, all of their 325 partner agencies are required to be either an independent non-profit organization in good standing or part of a church that meets a 14 point food safety checklist.

"We have a solid network of agencies we work through and a good reporting system so that we can give Wal-Mart the kind of information and the kind of assurance that their donations are being used well," Telford said.

Soup kitchen manager Terrie Lobato disputes Care and Share's claim that they didn't keep proper records. She showed News 5 her log of donations received from Wal-Mart over the past year and claims they were sent in a timely manner to Care and Share.

She also says their tax status is secured under the First Christian Church in Trinidad but that it lapsed recently. Lobato feels that she doesn't need to meet Care and Share's requirements because past food shipments they received were spoiled and damaged.

"We got crackers from them, given and bought and they were both rancid," Lobato said. "They were supposed to make it up to us, as of today they have not."

Marts acknowledged the spoiled cracker shipment and said that all of the partner agencies that received them were given a credit. She adds that they have also implemented other measure to ensure freshness of perishable food donations.

For now, food from the Trinidad Wal-Mart will be shipped to the Care and Share distribution center in Pueblo. From there, it will be distributed to other food pantries in Walsenburg and Aguilar.

Both sides are expected to meet at the church on Friday.

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