This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published October 28, 2020
“I was talking with Tammy DeFrancesco, and she said they needed someone strong to pick up the food at the Connecticut Food Bank. I said, ‘I have a strong back, so I’ll be happy to do it,’” says Marta Slattery. “And that’s how I first got involved with Guilford Interfaith.”
After first serving as a Guilford Interfaith Volunteers (GIV) volunteer for many years, Marta was named director of GIV’s Meals on Wheels program in 2012, followed by going on to become GIV executive director in 2018. Now, the path that carried Marta from her native Spain to the United States, and on to 23 happy years in Guilford, will soon take her and her husband, Jim, to their next stop: Eugene, Oregon, for Jim’s new job with the University of Oregon.
Marta’s last week with GIV will arrive at the end of November.
“I do hate to say goodbye. It’s a great place and I love what I do. I work with the best people in town and we get to help a lot of people, so it’s very rewarding,” says Marta.
She knows she’s leaving GIV in good hands, with a “smooth transition” to the next GIV executive director, Christi Burton, who currently directs Meals on Wheels.
“I know Christi will do a wonderful job,” says Marta. “Christi will continue to run the Meals on Wheels Program and also be the head of the organization. And we have a wonderful board that’s very supportive and always ready to help, hands-on. It’s great organization.”
In addition to Meals on Wheels, GIV serves the community through Charlie’s Closet, Friendly Visitors, and a collaborative leadership of Guilford Food Bank together with Guilford Social Services (GSS). Marta first learned about GIV as a mom who was already involved in town programs through her children’s schools, PTOs, and scout groups. Over a dozen years ago, Marta was helping her son’s Boy Scout troop with a food drive for the Guilford Food Bank when she met GSS Director Tammy DeFrancesco and volunteered to help out.
Marta’s move into community service work was quite a bit different than the veterinary medicine, veterinary pathology, and pathobiology fields for which she’d prepared by earning degrees from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Columbia University in New York. She met her husband at Columbia and in 1997 they moved to Guilford, where they raised their three children.
“I never thought I would be running a non-profit,” says Marta. “I came to the states to go to grad school and do a residency in veterinary pathology [at Cornell]. I met my husband there, so what was going to just be a few years in the states turned into going on 30.”
In addition to leaving her role with GIV at the end of November, Marta will also step away from her community service as a board member of the Guilford Foundation (GF) and as vice president of the board of Guilford Free Library.
“The good thing about Guilford is there is always somebody ready to step in to take up the slack, so I’m sure there is somebody who is going to come along for them,” says Marta.
Marta has served on the GF Community Investment Committee, which awards community grants.
“It’s been wonderful to see all the organizations in the area and what they do,” says Marta of her GF committee work. “That gives you a perspective; there are a lot of people out there that are willing to help.”
Marta is thankful for her rewarding connection to the volunteers, staff, and board of GIV, and grateful that the board gave her the opportunity to work as a professional in the non-profit realm beginning eight years ago.
“That was a perfect time because my youngest was going to middle school, so I was ready to go back to work. It was perfect. I loved it,” says Marta, who ran GIV Meals on Wheels for six years, working with community chef Larry Santamaria.
“The Meals on Wheels program works really well because we work with the town. They provide the kitchen and staff and we pay for the meals,” says Marta, adding that “Larry Santamaria is the best partner you can have, and the staff in the kitchen are amazing. And the volunteers, they are the best part of working [at GIV]. You get to interact with wonderful people.”
In fact, before we go any further, Marta wants to take this opportunity to urge the community to support Meals on Wheels and honor veterans by signing up for the 19th annual Veterans Day Lasagna Dinner, which this year will be a drive-up/take-out event on Wednesday, Nov. 11 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Community Center. Although the meal can’t be held with the usual camaraderie of the annual gathering, the dinner will still feature Santamaria’s famous meat or vegetable lasagna, salad, bread, and dessert.
Meals are free to all veterans who call in advance to reserve their meals. Adults can order their meal for $16; all proceeds benefit Meals on Wheels. To reserve your meal, call the GIV office at 203-453-8359, Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. an 12:30 p.m., before Saturday, Nov. 7.
The pivot to working within COVID-19 safe guidelines to put on the annual Veterans Day Lasagna Dinner in 2020 is just one of many ways in which Marta has helped GIV rise to the challenge during these last few months of her leadership.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, we had to figure out what was safe to do and how we were going to do it,” she says. “It has been a challenge, but I think I have enjoyed that challenge.”
Through the years, GIV’s outreach and community support has grown steadily to serve more clients, but the pandemic of 2020 swerved those numbers well higher than anyone could have anticipated.
“The numbers have been increasing,” says Marta. “Once the pandemic started, we knew that our services would be needed. In the beginning, we had to figure out how to run the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels safely, and at the same time, we had more clients in need. We never closed, but we had to adjust.
“We couldn’t do it without the community,” says Marta. “The community supports us, and we feel the love.”
As for what she plans for the immediate future, after moving out to Oregon in December, Marta hopes to get involved in assisting her new community.
“From what I’ve heard, Eugene has a lot of non-profits, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a little niche there,” says Marta. “But I’ll miss Guilford. It’s been great.”
Visit givct.org to learn more about Guilford Interfaith Volunteers, make a donation, or volunteer.