Care and Share + Chick-fil-A = controversy

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Lynne Telford
  • Lynne Telford
If you're a nonprofit that's hoping to lie low and stay out of politics, you probably want to stay as far away from Chick-fil-A as possible these days.

The fast-food chain, known for its chicken sandwiches, caused quite a stir recently when its CEO announced that the company supported only traditional marriage — meaning it is opposed to gay marriage.

Since then, the company has been condemned by Miss Piggy, among other high-profile folks, and embraced by staunch conservatives like former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. The latter is calling for a Chick-fil-A appreciation day on Aug. 1, when all people who don't think gay people deserve the same rights as the rest of us can make a statement by devouring a saturated-fat-laden sandwich.

Michelle Obama would be so proud.

Anyway, the controversy has left Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado in an "awkward position." CEO Lynne Telford explains that the charity's annual Chick-fil-A food drive is scheduled for tomorrow. The deal is pretty straightforward: Bring two nonperishable food items for Care and Share to your local Chick-fil-A, and get a free chicken sandwich.

It's all a part of Care and Share's annual summer-long drive, the Independence From Hunger Campaign. Local groceries stores and other businesses also participate. The goal is to help the charity ride out a slow summer donation season, because needs are typically high in the warm months, mostly because children are no longer being fed free lunch at school.

Now, local LGBT activists are calling on Telford to either cancel the Chick-fil-A drive, or at least make a statement that clarifies that the charity doesn't agree with Chick-fil-A. Local realtor and activist Carolyn Cathey sent an e-mail to her contacts this morning, urging them to write Telford letters and e-mails. Reached by phone, Cathey says Chick-fil-A has sent a message of divisiveness that isn't needed in Colorado Springs.

“What is important is that we show a face of inclusiveness or we’ll never get to a place where we overcome our monogram of being the city of hate,” she says.

Cathey says she thought it may be difficult to cancel the food drive at this point, but that she hoped Care and Share would at least acknowledge the issue.

Telford confirms that the drive will go on.

“We accept money from every legal organization without regard to their politics," she tells the Indy. "We have 12,000 donors in a year, and clearly there’s going to be a lot different things.”

That said, Telford says she does find the situation uncomfortable. She stresses that Chick-fil-A put no restrictions how donations are used, and that Care and Share is an open and accepting nonprofit.

“It is awkward, but we’re trying to feed people — that's what we’re trying to do, and we set this up a long time before any of this came up," she says. "We’re grateful for the food. The summer donations are down because everyone donated to the Waldo Canyon Fire, and we need to respect the people who wanted that food to go to the victims, and so we can’t use that for our normal operations.”

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