The Waupaca Area Food Pantry will soon move to a new site.
The non-profit organization acquired the property at 800 Churchill St. on Friday, Dec. 30 and expects to open at the new location on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
“We think we can do it in a month,” said Linda Holtebeck, president of the food pantry’s board.
For about the last two years, a task force worked to find a larger space for the food pantry, said Kathy Jenner, who is the pantry’s volunteer operations manager.
“The opportunity just presented itself. It happened so quickly. It’s such a blessing,” she said.
The food pantry opened at its present site at 413 S. Main St. on June 11, 2007, and Jenner said the building has served the pantry well.
“Moving into St. Mark’s (Episcopal Church) little house was wonderful,” she said.
Holtebeck said St. Mark’s made the house available as a community outreach of the church. The food pantry rented the house from the church.
The move there in 2007 was necessary to abide with the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide handicapped accessibility. Prior to that, the food pantry operated in the basement of Bethany Home’s J-Wing.
“The new space will afford us so many opportunities,” Holtebeck said.
They see it as an effort to better serve clients and the community.
The new space in what was once a neighborhood grocery store is three to four times larger than the pantry’s current location.
Jenner said the space on Main Street served the pantry well, but that they have outgrown the space.
For example, there is not enough space for food distribution, nor enough room inside for patrons to wait or for food storage.
In 2011, client demand remained steady and consistent with the numbers they saw in 2010. However, the food pantry is starting to see an increase in numbers, with a 20 percent increase since September, she said.
“We knew we would need more room,” Jenner said.
Some clients wait outside. There is a lack of privacy when new clients register and limited space for community outreach programs, such as blood pressure checks, she said.
In their space, they plan to have a larger client waiting area, wider aisles and also an area that is private and discreet for interviewing people during registration.
There will be morestorage area for food, with everything on one level. Currently, some food is stored in a room in the house that the pantry rents, with food also stored in the garage.
There will be more parking, including for the trucks that deliver the government commodities and for those that deliver large donations of food.
“This will afford us opportunities to expand and to think of new ways we can use the food pantry in the future,” Holtebeck said.
Jenner said some groups like to put together back-to-school kits. They have had limited space for such things.
Holtebeck says they will be able to partner with other community organizations and do more community outreach.
The Waupaca Area Food Pantry serves families in the Waupaca School District. It is open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Funded by donations, it is solely operated by volunteers. Each year, more than 100 volunteers contribute more than 4,000 hours to operate the pantry, Jenner said.
She said local churches, community organizations, businesses and hundreds of people donate food, money and volunteer time to keep the pantry running.
The pantry’s history dates back to 1986. That year, Hands Across America organized a national food drive.
Just prior to that, a group of representatives from Waupaca churches had been meeting to discuss what could be done locally to help those in need of food. A board was elected from the group,.
In May 1986 a program was held at the Main Street gazebo, and 1,500 food items were donated. A local business offered the food bank use of a one-room coal bin in its basement.
A boy scout, earning his Eagle Scout Award, whitewashed the walls and floors and built shelves for the food.
At that time, the Waupaca County Social Services Department gave out two to three bags of groceries per week in the county. The food pantry was called the Waupaca Area Food Bank at that time and only organized the collection of food and stored it.
Local churches were contacted, and many of them responded by having regular food drives to benefit the food bank. Phone calls were made and a volunteer list was organized so each person only worked one or two times per month.
The Scouts, local organizations, school classrooms, business and individuals held food drives.
In 1990, after the new Waupaca County Courthouse building was constructed, WAFB was offered space in the basement, and they were asked to take over the screening and distribution of the food because the number of families served were increasing.
WAFB remained in the courthouse basement until the fall of 1996, when the courthouse expanded and needed the space for its own operations.
By that time, the food bank was serving mostly the Waupaca area because other cities in the county had started their own pantries.
When the food bank needed to find a new home, Bethany Home offered the organization space.
Eventually, the food bank’s name changed to the Waupaca Area Food Pantry.
The pantry moved to Main Street and is now preparing for its next move.
Ruby’s Pantry has already donated shopping carts. Other needs include more chairs for the waiting room and shelving for food.
Plans call for the hours to remain the same, and Jenner notes that the new site is less than a mile from the pantry’s current location.