Busiest local food pantry moves to new quarters Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 -- 1:00 AM
  St vincent food pantry
 Volunteer Nick Hornung, a member of St. Dennis Parish, Madison, maneuvers a pallet of food barrels through the wide aisles of the new St. Vincent de Paul food pantry on Fish Hatchery Rd. in Madison on February 9. The barrels hold some of the approximately 11,000 pounds of food donated by 10 schools in the Madison area during a Catholic Schools Week food drive to welcome the pantry to its new quarters. (Catholic Herald photo by Kat Wagner)

MADISON — With the main part of its new home now ready, Dane County’s busiest food pantry moved into its freshly built space and opened there on February 2.

The customer-choice food pantry that has been operated by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at 1309 Culmen St. in the town of Madison closed January 27. Volunteers and staff have since been moving food, shelving, coolers, freezers, carts, and other equipment into the pantry’s new, larger space next door, at 2033 Fish Hatchery Rd.

Phase one done — more to come

St. Vincent de Paul has taken a two-step approach to building its new Food Pantry and Service Center. The charity, which focuses on helping meet the needs of people struggling with poverty, first built the just-completed two-story structure that will house its busy food pantry, other aid programs, client-interview rooms, meeting space, and staff offices.

Next, the society will dismantle the converted auto-radiator repair shop that housed its food pantry and other programs for more than three years and will then build the new pantry’s warehouse and dock space on the old pantry’s site. This second phase of the project is expected to be completed by early May.

Funds still needed

Ralph Middlecamp, executive director of the Society’s District Council of Madison, said that St. Vincent de Paul needs nearly $800,000 more to bring the full project to completion. During the last three years, Middlecamp said, St. Vincent de Paul has raised more than $3.2 million in cash and pledges toward the society’s $4 million goal for the Help Build Hope Campaign, mounted to build the new center. The effort is the first capital campaign St. Vincent de Paul has conducted in the society’s 84 years of service in the Madison area, Middlecamp said.

“We had been making good progress toward our capital campaign goal,” Middlecamp said, “but in October, new campaign contributions dried up with the economic downturn.”

Middlecamp said he is hopeful that St. Vincent de Paul will be able to take in pledges and cash for the remaining $800,000 during the next several months. “We really want to operate our pantry free of any debt,” he said. “That will allow us to devote our full resources to providing food and other services to meet the growing need we’re encountering.”

Need is increasing

The St. Vincent de Paul pantry, which serves all Dane County ZIP codes five days each week, has been assisting an average of about 90 families per day in recent months. The number of client families visiting the pantry during the last four months of 2008 was up 10.4 percent from the same period in 2007. The pantry served a monthly record 1,927 families during October.

Through the fiscal year that ended last September, St. Vincent de Paul distributed to local families in need free food with a value of nearly $1.2 million. During that year, St. Vincent de Paul’s Service Center also provided more than $425,000 in other forms of aid, including prescription assistance and vouchers for clothing, bedding, furniture, and house wares.

More and better space

The new food pantry is significantly larger than the space it replaces. The old pantry offered about 1,600 square feet of grocery-store-like floor space. The comparable floor area of the new pantry is about 2,650 square feet — a 65 percent increase. Larger reception and waiting areas in the new building will also afford clients greater privacy and a more dignified atmosphere.

The total area of the previous Food Pantry and Service Center was about 4,000 square feet. Client privacy was scarce, cramped reception space often forced a line of clients out the door and into the elements, and food-storage space was  limited.

Plans call for the second-phase warehouse and dock space to cover about 6,000 square feet. The area of each floor of the first-phase building just completed is approximately 6,000 square feet. The building has also been built with a full, undedicated basement space that can be used for storage and could accommodate other aid programs in the future.

 Middlecamp said the society plans to dedicate the new Food Pantry and Service Center during grand-opening events to be held in late May, after the warehouse space has been finished. Those able to provide funds to help complete the new Food Pantry and Service Center may visit for more information or to donate online.

The Food Pantry hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays; 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays. The pantry is closed on Wednesdays, although the Service Center that houses it remains open.

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