2014-02-07 / Letters

Move aided by public’s support

To the editor:

The Food Cupboard recently moved to warehouses at 130 Thadeus in South Portland. We had resided in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church for 16 years, and should be noted that although we were an independent 501.3C non-profit we did not pay rent or utilities. This generous benefit afforded us the ability to use monetary donations on fresh and nutritious food items for our clients. We also maintained a 100 percent ecumenical, volunteer status.

The closing and sale of the church required us to find a new location, within South Portland, with space enough for our continued growth. These warehouses, we now rent, fit our needs. The drawbacks for us are we now pay rent and utilities, and for the clients are, we are not very near a bus line and parking is on the street. Despite that, clients have found us.

Any moving experience is costly. The fundraising efforts for this move would never have covered our expenses if we did not have the help from the following individuals, companies, and legal assistance. Attorney and Rotarian David Lourie provided valuable assistance in drafting the lease, and architect Kirk Hendricksen’s drawings were well received by the City.

The two warehouses were previously rented by an automobile mechanic who did not leave them in good condition. We were fortunate to use the Cumberland County Inmate Release Program, having them spray wash the interior, remove and replace sheet rock, and paint the entire 4,000 square feet of space. Benjamin Moore provided us will all the paint for the floors and the 18-foot walls. Lowes South Portland human resources manager Jim Wadsworth provided new lighting fixtures and lights, three storage racks, sink, countertop and cabinets. Marjory Boles organized a group from Sappi Fine Paper to move us. They rented a U-Haul truck, dismantled shelving, and moved tables, chairs, everything that was not refrigeration, and reassembled all at the warehouse, making three to four trips.

Sam Kelly of MBI Trailers, Inc. in Scarborough loaned us a huge trailer the month prior to our move for storage of food and miscellaneous items. Tom Maietta of Maietta Construction moved the trailer from MBI to SJ and back, Johnson & Jordan provided plumbing assistance. Blue Cold moved four refrigerators and three freezers. Eastern Cleaning cleaned carpets.

Discounts were obtained by electrician Bob Bauman, Handyman Rentals, Lowes, Home Depot, Mike Palmer - Palmer Construction, Graybar Electric, and others. At the same time, Hannaford Bros. donated 910 cases of products we share weekly, providing us with a healthy reserve. We owe our gratitude to all for their magnanimous contribution.

We are a busy Food Cupboard sharing food on average with 291 families (706 men, women and children) a month. We do not limit just South Portland residents, and serve clients from cities and towns within Cumberland and York Counties. Consequently we have become one of the larger food pantries in the area. We are open on Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and operate on a first come, first served basis. Using Federal Income Guidelines for acceptance, the majority of clients fall way below the 150 percent above the poverty level. Our program is totally computerized. The data base has been designed to fit the many questions we need to access for their eligibility and needs.

Clients are welcome to visit the pantry once each calendar month and each will leave with five to 10 full grocery bags (depending on family size, need and personal preference.) We know the cut in food stamps has already made an impact, and those households with children suffer greatly. Twenty percent of our clients are children under 12 years of age.

In addition to donations from many local businesses (including daily from Mill Creek Hannaford’s), banks, schools, civic organizations and individuals, we spend close to $2,000 a week on food supplies to ensure that everyone goes home with nutritious foods that include milk, meat, eggs, juice, and fresh vegetables.

We deliver once a month to 13 homebound South Portland seniors and can provide “motel bags” to clients staying in temporary motel housing or, occasionally, to those who are homeless.

At times we help the South Portland High School Social Services with food for a homeless student or a family of a student in dire need. Each client that comes to the Cupboard has the opportunity to meet with our “HELP” coordinator. Working with websites from Preble Street’s Healthy Maine Initiatives and 211, we are able to direct clients to where they can receive specific services, and library computer access.

We also have “specific donated funds” for gift cards, clothing, gas, food, help with heating oil, and we give out bus passes.

We are always humbled by the people we serve and by the many that support us. As we move into a business model of rent, utilities and, in the future paid staff, our fundraising efforts will have to increase. We appreciate the support we have had throughout the years and look forward to the challenge ahead. We can be reached at874-0379, foodcupboard@maine.rr.com.

Sybil Riemensnider,
Director

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