ELLSWORTH — The Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry is planning to make big moves by the end of the year. The nonprofit kicked off its capital campaign on Jan. 25 for the renovation of a newly acquired building at 137 Downeast Highway.
The pantry’s board of trustees closed on the purchase of the 8,000-square-foot, 3-acre former Granville Rental property in August using a loan from the Genesis Community Loan Fund.
“We wouldn’t have been able to purchase the building without that loan,” said Andy Matthews, the board’s president. “Now we want to make our dreams a reality.”
There are big plans for the new space, which is nearly eight times larger than the pantry’s current Bucksport Road location. The pantry has operated from the present location for about 21 years and will continue to do so as renovations are made to the new facility.
Matthews took community members on a tour of the building, showing them what will be the waiting room, a private office for staff and clients to meet, an alcove to house freezers, a “community engagement space” that will hold classes and be available for organizations to use as a meeting room and a 3,200-square-foot indoor market.
The market, where clients will gather their meat, produce and groceries, is being designed with the help of Ellsworth Hannaford, Matthews said, to normalize and destigmatize the pantry experience.
A 5,000-square-foot community garden is planned at the front of the building in collaboration with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardeners. Clients will take home harvested vegetables and some produce will be available inside the market and used for cooking demonstrations in the building’s teaching kitchen.
It’s a space intended for collaborations within the community, Matthews said, calling it a “one-stop shop” for families who may not be able to make multiple trips to Ellsworth for separate meetings and appointments.
And it will be a space where food insecurity will continue to be addressed in Hancock County.
Currently, the pantry receives support from Maine Shellfish Co., which stores pallets of food for Loaves & Fishes. Until recently, Maine Storage Plus provided space for the pantry to store its dry goods.
With the vast storage available in the new building, Loaves & Fishes has been able to move its dry goods into the new space and has received the parts for its new 11-by-15 cooler and 12-by-15 freezer.
In the new building, all food will be stored under one roof.
A landing on the second floor offers views of the expansive storage area below and leads to an upper-level board room.
The building was most recently used to repair vehicles. Matthews said that the sellers made the pantry a deal, selling the property for below the asking price at $550,000.
But the organization still needs to fundraise.
“Obviously we gotta raise a whole lot of money to make this happen,” Matthews said. Needed funds are to the tune of $850,000.
The funds will be used to renovate the building, retire the loan and expand hours so that families can access the pantry whenever they need, not just once per month, all by the end of 2022.
Matthews said plans are in the works to develop the community garden this summer.
The campaign’s kick-off, which Matthews said is in its “quiet” phase, includes naming opportunities for the building.