Wakefield Food Pantry readying for its Jan. 2 opening

Union Leader Correspondent
December 26. 2012 9:47PM
"New Home.. New Hope" is the theme at the brand new Wakefield Food Pantry. Located on 1500 Wakefield Road, adjacent to the Public Works yard, the pantry opens its doors next week. (LARISSA MULKERN/Union Leader Correspondent)
WAKEFIELD - The new Wakefield Food Pantry building received its certificate of occupancy Wednesday, a day ahead of a projected Nor'easter, and in plenty of time for a Jan. 2 opening date.

Located adjacent to the town's public works yard at 1500 Wakefield Road, the new 2,000-square foot pantry was made possible through grants, matching funds and donations - including more than $80,000 worth of in-kind donations of labor, supplies and discounts, according to pantry volunteer Denny Miller, the project's general contractor.

Pantry President Janet Miller and other volunteers were at the pantry on Wednesday, working on the interior, installing ceiling tiles and wrapping up loose ends. Earlier that morning, members of Boy Scout Troop 198 moved the food from the pantry's former home - a small space it shared with the Parks and Recreation Department in Sanbornville - to the new building. Miller said the Scouts volunteered to restock the new shelves as well.

Janet Miller said community support for the pantry has been "just unbelievable." After voters at the March 2012 town meeting approved leasing the land for the pantry building, the planning board reviewed and approved the proposal for a one-acre of town-owned land. From there, the site had to be cleared and logged, stumped and leveled, she said. By August the foundation was laid and the metal building arrived on a flatbed truck.

The Millers credited many volunteers and donors for their support, including local builder and planning board member Tom Dube, who did all the site and septic work for the project. Local artist Ron Fountain donated more than $8,000 in proceeds from his art show to the pantry earlier this fall, and Ossipee Aggregates donated the gravel for the lot. In September, St. John's Episcopal Church sponsored an "Arff Walk" and raised $4,500 for the pantry. Communications equipment specialist Clayton Randall of Randall Telecommunications Services donated the telephone and communications system to the pantry - and installed it for free.

And even when the new pantry building was in the idea stages, an anonymous benefactor offered to match up to $100,000 in donations for the pantry. Miller said the benefactor wants to remain anonymous, at least for now.

"This is a good building made even better by the volunteers and professionals who gave their time and talent, not to mention all the cash donations that have been designated for our building fund," said pantry Treasurer Howie Knight, husband of volunteer Pam Knight, who died this summer. A plaque honoring her spirit and legacy hangs in the new pantry's reception area.

The days and hours of operation remain the same, Wednesday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. The building is staffed each Tuesday from approximately 8:30-10 a.m. with volunteers stocking shelves and processing produce for the Wednesday session.

Donations of food or cash may be brought to the pantry during those hours. The pantry plans to install a donation box outside the building so that anyone donating nonperishables could drop off food, even when the pantry is not open. Anyone needing more information may call the pantry at 522-3094 or Janet Miller at 522-5058.

The new pantry features a roomy and bright waiting area with a small section dedicated to children's books. The distribution area adjoins the food warehouse, where the food is picked for each client while moving along a long counter. It is expected that this layout will allow for a much more efficient selection process and will reduce waiting time for recipients. The pantry is serving approximately 60 families a week, a 35 percent increase over the year before, according to Janet Miller.

Labor-saving elements include a carton flow rack in the warehouse picking area. This 10-foot-long, 5-foot-deep rack is slanted in the front with rollers on the shelves allowing for stocking shelves from the rear and having product move forward with less effort. An expandable conveyor will allow for rapid and efficient unloading of trucks and a 5-foot long U-boat platform truck will be used to move items into the food area.

"For the volunteers, we designed an efficient workspace, which also prevents injuries and saves energy," said DJ Walkey, operations manager.

To celebrate the opening of the pantry, there will be a community Open House on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the new building, 1500 Wakefield Road, Wakefield. The dedication ceremony, led by local clergy, will be at 1:30.

Janet Miller said a separate volunteer appreciation event will be held for all the people who helped over the years to achieve the pantry's goals.

"Our mission is to have a hunger-free community," said Janet Miller.

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Larissa Mulkern may be reached at LMulkern@newstote.com.

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