WILLIAMSTOWN -- Dana Van Slycke feels he was being led by God to start a nonprofit aimed at fighting hunger worldwide.
"I can only tell it like it is," said Slycke Friday. "I was at church and our pastor was talking about social problems. For decades, there's been a world hunger problem. But when he said 25,000 people die per day of starvation ... it just tripped my heart. And over the next six months, I felt God saying ‘get involved with world hunger, and helping global starvation', so I went on the Internet to look at different organizations I could contribute to or join."
In the end, Slycke decided that rather than working with an existing organization, he preferred to start his own. Thus was born Global Pantry Inc., a nonprofit he created in order to eliminate global starvation.
"I thought if I donate $100 a month, over 10 years, that's $12,000," Slycke explained. "I felt God was leading me to say, open your own nonprofit organization, and over that span of time, you can make much more money to donate. I fought that, and ended up saying okay, and that's the birth of Global Pantry."
Slycke said his initial reluctance was based largely on his lack of experience in the nonprofit field.
"I'm a mental health guy at [Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction]," said Slycke, who has worked in corrections for the past three decades. He had never dealt with forming a nonprofit, managing such a creation or forming articles of incorporation, and he was unsure that he wanted to proceed.
"I am of the opinion that if you feel like God is telling you to do something, one can be tricked. Maybe it's not really God, it's your own brain telling you something," said Slycke. "But a few months later, I was still feeling like God was telling me to do this. I operate on a green light theory, and if God is telling me to do this, all the lights are green, and I pray to God, ‘if I should stop, put up a red light'. So I formed this organization, it's miraculous."
Slycke incorporated Global Pantry in early 2011, after filing with the Internal Revenue Service to get an Employer Identification Number, and filing Articles of Incorporation with the state.
With that step accomplished, Slycke's next goal is to obtain 501(c)(3) status. Until Global Pantry is classified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, no donations to it will be tax-deductible. The other benefit of 501(c)(3) status is eligibility for various grants.
"You have to fill out a form," said Slycke. "But it's a 15 to 20 page significant application process. There's a $400 to $500 filing fee with the IRS. At this point, I'm guessing we'll be a 501(c)(3) by March or April. I'll be teaching a course at MCLA, and will use that money to file for the 501(c)(3). To be 501(c)(3), most of my contributions have to come from the general public. So I plan to have fundraiser banquets, dinners and different fundraising activities in the community."
Slycke recalls being surprised by pictures of bare looking shelves while reading articles in the paper about local food pantries.
"There's no food there." said Slycke. "Every food bank in Berkshire County is almost bone dry. If I had a thousand people in Berkshire county who donated $10 a month, that'd be $10,000 a month -- a lot of money over a year's time. I'm looking into going over the Internet, crossing my fingers, and if the Lord sees fit, there may be college kids, Catholics and other people out there who would say, ‘I am interested in helping global starvation.' We'll be primarily raising funds through fundraisers, and hopefully monthly contributions of $10 a month from the general public."
Once the money is acquired, Slycke has laid out a multi-tiered plan for how he plans to spend the money to fight hunger.
"We have a three-pronged mission: To help global starvation. To help villages and communities in developing nations to become agriculturally independent. And because we believe charity begins at home, to help Western Mass. and local food banks. I expect Global Pantry to go national, so if we have a fundraiser in Albany, we'd donate one third of the proceeds to Albany food banks. If we have it in Berkshire County, we'd donate one third to Berkshire food banks. Helping local hunger is one of our three missions."
While Slycke may have come up with the idea to form Global Pantry, he believes that the credit is due to God.
"It's not mine, it is God's," said Slycke. "But God did say form a nonprofit organization and collect money, and through that, you can end up donating for global starvation, you can end up donating a lot more than $12,000. It's not mine. I am the president, and filled out the articles of incorporation, but it's not my organization, it's God's, and I'm just the general manager."
Meanwhile, as manager of Global Pantry, Slycke is eager to get off the ground. "I hope by having something in the newspaper, people might call and want to help with a golf tournament or fundraising banquet," he said. "It'd be nice to have people say, ‘I want to volunteer for that.' That would be a blessing."
For more information on Global Pantry, contact Dana Van Slycke at 413-884-5381.