On Friday, a Washington County Detention Center work crew helped the food bank staff move their office furnishings and equipment from the Gray warehouse where it has operated since 1997 to its spacious new facility just off Airport Parkway.
Moving the food bank’s store of approximately 1.5 million pounds of fresh, frozen and nonperishable food to the former Sam’s Club building at 1020 Jericho Road was a six- to eight-week process that began in September and wrapped up this week.
Teams of Walmart volunteers began helping the food bank staff set up their new offices Friday evening and will continue the work through early next week. The food bank’s new phone number, 279-0430, will be connected Monday. And by Friday, the new facility is expected to be up and running and fully functional for the 200 pantries and feeding agencies in the eight-county region it serves.
“It’s bittersweet,” Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said Friday morning as she looked over her empty office at the old food bank warehouse in Gray. “We’re sad to be leaving Washington County and Gray after being here 16 years. But its exciting because we’re going to have the space we need to meet the food need. And we’re not that far away. We’re just a mile form the airport.”
The food bank purchased the 113,000-square-foot Sam’s building last year and set out on $1.3 million capital campaign for its renovation.
Since then, the building has undergone an estimated $850,000 in renovations and improvements, including the installation of coolers and freezers with a combined storage capacity of 6,500 square feet, or more than twice that of the food bank’s former location.
New offices, meeting rooms and a new packing room for the Food for Kids backpack program have been constructed inside the warehouse. Storage racks and new lighting have been installed throughout the remaining warehouse area and the building’s roof, dock doors and dock levelers have been repaired.
Support for the renovations has included more than $550,000 in private foundation funding and many in kind gifts of material and labor from local contractors and building supply companies.
Chafin said the food bank also used some of its reserve funds for the renovations and is working now to complete its $1.3 million capital campaign in order to replace those reserves and cover the cost of improvements yet to be done, including paving of the building’s expansive parking area.
“We’ve got about $500,000 still to go on our capital campaign. The impact will be the additional storage area we have for the dry, refrigerated and frozen food donations we receive,” Chafin said, adding that the expanded storage capacity is already making a difference.
Of 50 truckloads of USDA frozen chicken recently allotted to Tennessee, Chafin said the Tennessee Department of Agriculture found space for 14 truckloads at the other five regional food banks located across the state and designated the remaining 36 truckloads for Northeast Tennessee.
“We were able to take that because of the addition freezer and cooler space we have. It’s going to come here in November through February and that’s all going to go to families, seniors and children in Northeast Tennessee,” Chafin said.
For those who wish to help with the capital campaign, donations designated for Second Harvest’s “building fund” may be made online at www.netfoodbank.org or by mail to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, 1020 Jericho Drive, Kingsport, TN 37663.