Area Interfaith Outreach recently voted to expand its facility on the corner of Gordon Drive and Thomaston Street in Rockland by 900 square feet for a cost of $59,000. Groundbreaking is scheduled for mid-August.

The food pantry’s business has more than doubled in the current economic downturn. It’s not unusual now for 45 families a day to come in when not so long ago 15 would have been the average. The people are of all ages, though most of the new clients are young, in their 20s and 30s.

More people means more food, and there’s no place to put it. When just a few families were coming at a time, people could fit around the stacked boxes to reach the shelves of groceries. These days it’s hard to move.

Fortunately, AIO’s building has enough land behind it for an addition, which will clear much of the floor space in the public area for the real business of client interviews, food selections, presentation of fresh vegetables, and cooking suggestions.

It is also fortunate that AIO has nearly half of the cost of this project already available in the building and maintenance fund, monies dedicated after the 2006 capital campaign successfully paid for the building. The Knox County community has been very responsive to the increasing needs through individual gifts, goods and services, as well as through organized events benefiting AIO. It is hoped that the funds to complete the needed additional space will come from similar broad community efforts.

Fundraising has begun, including a Souper Sale tag sale involving all of AIO’s member churches to be held at the Rockland Congregational Church on Saturday, Sept. 11 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

AIO’s emergency service to Knox County includes limited assistance with heat and utilities, as well as food. For more information call the pantry on Monday, Wednesday or Friday morning at 596-1043, or leave a message any time and someone will return the call. The mailing address is AIO, P.O. Box 113, Rockland, ME 04841.