The Waupaca Area Food Pantry celebrated its new location with an open house Friday, March 2.
The pantry opened at 800 Churchill St. on Feb. 1 after working out of a house on South Main Street for more than four years.
“It’s just been an overwhelming process. It happened so fast. It’s been so wonderful. The community’s been so generous,” said Linda Holtebeck, who is the president of the food pantry’s board.
She was referring to how quickly a task force raised money to purchase the building on Churchill Street.
Kathy Jenner, a member of the pantry’s board and also the volunteer operations manager, said, “Our task force raised donations from the community. They raised $104,000 in two weeks’ time.”
The building, which was at one time a neighborhood grocery store, cost $90,000.
The remaining $14,000 that was raised is a cushion for building expenses and maintenance.
Already, some minor work has taken place at the site of the new food pantry, including electrical work and the installation of more lighting.
Not one dollar that was donated for the food pantry itself was used to purchase the building, Jenner said.
“The community always supports us,” she said. “This is just beyond our wildest dream.”
Jenner said the house on South Main Street served them well.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church owns the house and rented it to the food pantry as a community outreach.
For about two years, the task force had worked to find a larger space for the food pantry. When the opportunity to purchase property became available, the group moved quickly to raise the necessary funds.
The nonprofit closed on the property on Dec. 30.
At its new site, the food pantry has more space for sorting and storing food. The new waiting area results in more privacy for clients.
The pantry serves residents in the Waupaca School District. They can visit the food pantry once a month.
After the organization announced that it would be moving, two larger freezers were donated. That means the pantry now has eight freezers.
“We had 24 families go through today,” Jenner said last Friday. “The first couple days of the month that we’re open we can get anywhere from 24 to 32 families. Then, the numbers are like 15, 10. It tapers as we get toward the end of the month.”
Between 175 and 250 families visit the food pantry each month, with between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds of food going out of the pantry on a monthly basis, she said.
A family of one to three people receives 50 pounds of food, which is about $130 worth of groceries, Jenner said.
In 2011, a total of 31,000 pounds of food were donated to the pantry. “That was up 10,000 pounds from 2010,” she said.
That amount does not include the government commodities that the food pantry also receives.
The pantry received $37,000 in monetary donations in 2011, which was down about $10,000 from 2010, Jenner said.
She said those monetary donations allow them to purchase food staples when the pantry does not have enough of them.
Because they buy in bulk, local grocery stores give the pantry a discount.
Jenner said both the clients and volunteers are enjoying the new location, with its ample parking and room inside.
“It’s much more comfortable,” she said. “The convenience is wonderful.”
Sue Townsend serves on the pantry’s board and was its president for many years.
“It’s amazing how far this has come since 1986,” she said. “The generosity of our community is overwhelming.”