LOWVILLE — The T-shirts worn by Lowville Food Pantry leaders Thursday morning said it all: “When someone knocks, our door opens.”
Community members gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the pantry’s new expansion, a two-story, 3,600-square-foot red steel pantry building at 5502 Trinity Ave. The property was “sold” to the organization by QubicaAMF Worldwide LLC for $1 in 2016.
The new space features a reception area and intake room where clients can have privacy when applying for services. To further ensure confidentiality, paperwork will be passed through a window to volunteers who will help fill food orders for clients, who will then leave through a separate exit.
The majority of the building will be for the storage of food items. In the main storage area, freezer and refrigerator units have been installed to help prolong the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products. The space also features a large walk-in cooler.
“Today we’re proud to open our new pantry,” Chief Executive Officer Daniel N. Taylor said. “A lot of hard work from the community, volunteers, and from all your donations helped build this building. And we finally got it to where we can actually open it, run it and feed the community.”
The food pantry purchases inventory from county businesses and local growers and is a fully volunteer organization, with volunteers contributing over 1,000 hours a month to provide services to those in need.
The project, which has been in the works for the past few years and was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was covered by various grants combined with capital funds and private donations. According to Mr. Taylor, the project ended up costing between $250,000 and $300,000 after materials costs increased amid the pandemic.
The older building that the pantry extended is about 70 years old and has some issues, Mr. Taylor said. All the insulation is now at the bottom of the walls, so it needs new insulation; the siding is old tin and is starting to rot in places and cause other issues; and the roof needs to be replaced. New windows have been installed, and the next project will be to address the space and make it workable for everyone.
“That one (the older building), we’d like to turn into a community building that can be used for the community and for emergency purposes,” Mr. Taylor said. “It would, in the event of an emergency, hold about 100 beds, if not more. And there’s quite an interest in making it look better than it does.”
In the spring, Mr. Taylor said large blue barrels off to the side of the building will hopefully get cut in half and be part of the community garden that will be created on the piece of property adjacent to the left side of the building. The idea is for the vegetables to come right out of the community garden right over to the pantry. There is also a plan to obtain an outdoor freezer for the pantry so less space will be needed for one inside.
The upper level over the warehouse, which will eventually be fully formed offices, is being utilized for the organization’s Christmas Sharing Program, which provides toys, clothing and food for families for the holidays.
Once the ribbon was cut by Mr. Taylor with a large pair of scissors, guests were invited inside to tour the new facility. Along with light refreshments available under a tent, guests could sign their names into a keepsake book to mark the occasion.
“This allows us to serve the community in a larger area,” Mr Taylor said. “We serve all of Lewis County, so with the capacity that we now have, we can increase the number of families we serve; increase the programs and services we provide.”