MEET THE TRIBE: Sharon Thompson, Food Distribution Program Director
Oct 1, 2016
(The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is proud to feature Sharon Thompson in this month’s “Meet the Tribe.” It is our pleasure to share these tribal employee profiles and their years of work on behalf of the community.)
Sharon Thompson began her employment with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe on Ohiarihkó:wa/July 1, 1983 as a Distribution Clerk for the Food Distribution Program, a tribal program offered to eligible community members as an alternative to the food stamps administered by the Franklin County Department of Social Services.
Since her first day with the Tribe, Sharon was devoted and dedicated to promoting the general health of the community, which resulted in her being promoted in 1986 after just three years—where she has remained as the Food Distribution Program Director for the last three decades.
Sharon says the most important item she cherishes from her thirty-three (33) years of work is the relationships that she has been formed with the program’s participants. She explained, “We sit down and listen. They often need someone to talk to.” For that, Sharon has always made herself available to discuss how the tribal program can help individuals.
Under Sharon’s nurturing and guidance, the Food Distribution Program has defied expectations. In the beginning, there were some doubts about the program’s longevity, with her recalling one comment in particular that it wouldn’t last. “I’ll give you 3 years,” one critical community member said. More than three decades later, Sharon offered a well-deserved laugh as she remarked, “Look how long it’s been.”
Sharon will admit however, it hasn’t always been easy as there have been some obstacles and challenges to the program’s success—though one event in particular she recounts as one of her favorite memories. During the Ice Storm of 1998, the Food Distribution Program was located in the basement of the Tribe’s Community Building when it flooded. She noted the response and assistance provided by community members to help relocate the program’s food inventory was overwhelming.
Sharon affectionately recalled how volunteers came together and quickly moved all their supplies to a safe, dry place. As she shared a recounting of the event, it was evident she continues to have much admiration for those individuals who unselfishly gave their time to ensure other community members would not go hungry. For their help, she said the most amazing thing was, “They didn’t ask for anything.”
Following the program’s relocation, Sharon has ensured that it continued to grow and expand in response to community needs. As a result, it now maintains a storage warehouse that includes an onsite distribution system and outreach delivery for eligible individuals. She envisions the program will keep expanding and improving its services to provide healthy and nutritious foods. A future next step may include the community’s ability to grow and make its own organic produce available for program participants.
Sharon is now applying her years of experience and knowledge overseeing the Tribe’s food program to benefit other tribes. On Seskéha/August 29-31, 2016 the Food Distribution Program hosted the 19th Annual Midwest/Annual Regional Food Distribution Conference for the first time in Akwesasne. It provided an opportunity for her to share lessons learned and form partnerships to help meet the food needs of not just Akwesane, but other tribal communities.
Looking back at the past thirty-three (33) years, Sharon says, “It’s been a rewarding experience.” For the Akwesasne community however, we are the ones that have been rewarded by having you direct the Tribe’s Food Distribution Program all these years.
Niawen:kówa for all your hard work Sharon!
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.