After years of searching, the Letcher County Food Pantry has a new home.
The organization has completed a move to U.S. 119 North at Ermine in the old Pine Mountain Arts and Crafts Cooperative building.
The food pantry has been operating out of a house on Madison Street in Whitesburg owned by First Baptist Church. It paid no rent on that building, but Harold Bolling, the board secretary and treasurer, said it had become “old and dilapidated and beyond repair.” The church also has plans to raze it and build a “life center” on the site.
Bolling said the new building is owned by Whitesburg real estate agent Randy Blair, who was “very generous with his rate” to rent it to the pantry. American Electric Power Foundation gave the pantry $15,000 to do the work needed to get into the building.
“We whipped that place up to as a good a standard as we would get, and frankly we never would have got in there if it wasn’t for the goodness of Randy Blair and AEP,” Bolling said.
Vicki Holbrook, administrative director of the food pantry, said freezers and refrigerators have been installed in the new building, but were still to be filled on Tuesday. There is a separate stockroom, packaging room, office space, and room for clients to pick up food.
“We have two bathrooms. We have hot water!” Holbrook exclaimed. Water had to be heated and extra bleach used for cleaning in the old building. “We’re thrilled.”
The new food pantry is off the road with room for trucks to load and unload, and easy access for the handicapped and elderly. Bolling said there is plenty of room inside, allowing the pantry to get more free commodities and add more freezers if necessary.
The pantry is already expanding, and is now offering some home delivery.
“We partnered with LKLP and their transportation,” Bolling said. “They had some slack time with drivers and things, and now we’re doing home delivery for people that can’t get there.”
The home delivery program has been in effect for about two months and serves 50 families.
Overall, the food pantry serves 4,427 households which include 8,356 persons. In all, local businesses, individuals, churches and civic organizations donated $13,537 to the food pantry in 2019, and it spent $12,812 on purchasing 409,034 pounds of food. It receives most of its food from God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington, which manages the regional food commodities program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Bolling said most of the food is sold to the pantry at a greatly reduced price, and some is free because it comes from the USDA. The USDA commodities come in large quantities of single food items, such as potatoes or cabbage.
The local food pantry had been limited in the amount of free items it could take because of the space in the old building, Bolling said. He said it will now be able to accept much more of the free items.