Food pantry buys adjacent property for new home

By Stephen Betts | Oct 09, 2018
Photo by: AIO Some of the AIO board members in front of 1A Gordon Drive, Rockland.

Rockland — The Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry and Emergency Assistance has found a new home -- and the organization did not have to go far.

The food pantry announced Monday, Oct. 8, in a news release from Board President Liz Jenkins that it has purchased 1A Gordon Drive in the Rockland Industrial Park. The property is adjacent to the current 1,800-square-foot building at the corner of Gordon Drive and Thomaston Street.

The new home had been the location of Visual Changes Hair Salon, which has relocated to Salty Waves, 394 Old County Road, Rockland.

AIO plans to do some internal renovations and build an addition to the building it acquired. If plans and funding all come together, the food pantry could move into the new building in early summer, the release said. AIO will keep the current building, which will then house the weekend backpack program food assembly line, provide increased capacity for food storage, and offer space to other nonprofits who provide items or services to AIO clients.

AIO received a loan from the Genesis Community Loan Fund to purchase the property. The fund is a certified Community Development Financial Institution based in Brunswick. For more than 25 years, the Genesis Fund has provided financing by soliciting investment loans from individuals, churches, corporations and foundations, and then relending the money at favorable terms to nonprofit organizations developing affordable housing and community facilities.

The immediate first goal is to pay back the Genesis loan as quickly as possible, according to AIO. The press release states that anyone interested in helping it reach this goal should contact AIO Board Member and Development Committee Chairperson Paul Spizzuoco at 542-3330, send a check marked “New Building” to AIO New Building Fund, PO Box 113, Rockland, ME 04841 or email email@aiofoodpantry.org for information.

The organization thanked Doug Erickson and The Masiello Group, which showed AIO multiple locations throughout Rockland over the last few years. AIO also expressed its gratitude to Camden Law LLP, which managed the closing and provided support throughout this process.

The food pantry served nearly 13,000 people last year.

AIO is supported by 12 religious congregations and run by a 16-member board of directors which meets monthly. The volunteer organization opened its first food pantry in 1991, which is supported financially by individual donors, businesses and grants.

The pantry expanded its hours last year because of increased demand.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Cathy Baker | Oct 10, 2018 17:07

The other thing to remember is that it isn't a Christian outreach, even though the original congregations were mostly Christian.  The synagogue and the UUs are non- Christian partners, as are the community groups who take turns on the weekend meal rotation.  There's always been a seat on the Board for a community member, who doesn't have to have a congregation behind them.  And the ways a building is used have to change when you host a community service; for starters, it really needs to be accessible, secure, and near where its users live, since many walk and tote home heavy cans of food.  A fair number of churches simply don't feel up to the challenge, because the numbers needing AIO have mushroomed, and the number of able-bodied volunteer candidates in many churches has shrunk.



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 10, 2018 16:23

Steve, 

Stop in and visit AIO someday and see how much room they really need. Think you would be pleasantly surprised and see why it would not be practical in any of our local faith settings.  Cathy explained it well.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Oct 10, 2018 09:18

Cathy thank you for your enlightening and informational response.  As you said AIO has been growing for 25 years.  I am sure a big part of their growing pains is being able to provide the space to house and dispense the many products donated to assist the needy.  You said the " large empty churches are empty because they are poor".  They do possess a "large empty building "with available space to assist the AIO (of which they are a sponsor).  Even though they have little money the church could share what they do have "space".  This of course would greatly benefit AIO in that they would not need to make mortgage or rental payments.  The money saved could then be used to provide more assistance for the needy.  My question is if you are a "member congregation" and you have unused space, why would you not want the AIO to use it ?  This "christian" gesture would certainly benefit the AIO and allow them to do the one thing they need "to grow"



Posted by: Cathy Baker | Oct 09, 2018 08:44

Steve, the Area Interfaith Outreach is just that; its work is governed by its member congregations.  Not all area churches belong, and some, like Warren's Congregational church, run their area's food pantry themselves.  Camden Christian Food Pantry does the same.  Some of the "large empty churches" are empty because they're poor; others simply do not believe in ecumenical cooperation, for doctrinal reasons.  The synagogue does great holiday meals, but they use St. Peter's Episcopal facilities, as do the other churches which serve the weekend hot meals.  St. Bernard's pantry qualifies for government food subsidies, and has rebuilt its kitchen to serve 100 people a day, M-F; the other churches do not qualify for aid, and don't have staff or volunteers to run one.  AIO has been a-building for 25 years, and area congregations and some service groups are responsible for its growth.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Oct 09, 2018 07:45

The name implies many of the areas religious organizations working  together for a common goal.  Eveer since AIO left the parsonage of the Rockland Congrational Church and moved to another location, it has looked for a suitable location with enough room to operate.  A non profit with not a lot of money to work with has made their search difficult, especially at the current price of realestate.  The question that has burned in my mind for years, with so many large empty churches in the area, why has none come forward to host such a worthy facility ???  The Catholic church and the Salvation Army both have wonderful food pantries and the synagogue puts on several large dinners throughout the year. I know very little about the AIO's relationship with area churches I'm just curious.  Does anyone have the answer to this question ?



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 09, 2018 04:11

Kudos to the AIO team.  Another example of what can be accomplished working together to solve a common problem. Encouraging! YEA!!!



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