CLEARWATER — The Religious Community Services Food Bank, the biggest distributor of food to Pinellas County's needy, has parted ways with Kathi Trautwein, its director for the past three years. That has upset a number of longtime volunteers, who are unhappy about her departure.
"We're heartbroken that Kathi has been relieved of her duties. She's very committed. This is a calling to her," said Wallace Webb, 82, of Dunedin, who has volunteered at the food pantry for years. "I cannot understand it. I know of no possible reason to terminate Kathi's employment."
Webb and eight other volunteers signed a letter protesting the decision.
RCS and Trautwein are saying little about the split, which took place last week.
RCS says Trautwein's position was eliminated as part of a management restructuring.
"Kathi will be sorely missed," said RCS development director Lisa Matzner. "We needed to make some management changes. That was presented to her, and we talked about different ways that she may or may not be able to fit into that. She chose to leave."
RCS operates a food pantry at 700 Druid Road in Clearwater. It's serving twice as many people as it did a couple of years ago. Clients can come in once a month and get enough to eat for three or four days.
Duggan Cooley, president and chief executive of the Clearwater-based charity, wouldn't discuss the reasons behind Trautwein's departure except to say that RCS decided to reshuffle its management team.
He said RCS will be focusing more on the efficiency of its food distribution network — things like food storage, fleet management and inventory tracking.
"Instead of having an overall general director, there will be more targeted positions," Cooley said. "I met with Kathi and told her of the changes. She gave us her resignation."
For her part, Trautwein noted that she and her husband had been involved with RCS for about 20 years.
"I'm sad to be gone from there. It's been an important part of my life," Trautwein said. "I understand the management's right to make changes. I'm sorry they felt that I wasn't what they wanted to be part of that structure."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4160.