An empty, straw-covered lot now sits beside the East Stokes Outreach Ministry Thrift Store. It is a sign that the ministry is one step closer to fulfilling its dream of building another food pantry.
In February, East Stokes Outreach Ministry had to shut down its decaying office and pantry building in Walnut Cove. The outreach began searching for grants and holding fundraisers to raise money for the demolition of the old building and the construction of a new one. And the community has stepped up in a big way.
With around $21,000 raised from local fundraising events and a few grants now in the pipeline, the agency has been able to slowly move forward with its plans. Last Friday, the old pantry building and outreach office was finally torn down. The building was around 70 years old, leaders estimated.
Marchelle Brown, director of East Stokes Outreach, said it appears now that the lot is safe to build on again.
“It looks like we’re in good shape,” she remarked Tuesday.
The organization would like to build a 3,000-square-foot building on the same site. The new pantry would be a little bit larger than the former structure, because the thrift store is already at full capacity and the old pantry was almost full as well.
The outreach is temporarily housing its pantry and administrative operations in a nearby office space in the Family Pharmacy building on Main Street.
“We’re a little cramped but we’re glad we have a concrete floor,” Brown said with a chuckle.
But she is also afraid some people still may not realize the pantry is located there. She encountered a woman recently who was in desperate need of food and went to the site of the old pantry to try to get help. Brown happened to see the woman standing by the now vacant lot and stopped to tell her the pantry was still in operation just down the street.
“My heart just broke,” said Brown. “That just shows you the need in the community.”
The thrift store next to the old pantry site is fine. It was built on a concrete slab and did not suffer from mold problems, but there are some repairs that will need to be done in the building in the future.
Brown estimates around $100,000 more is needed so the outreach can build a new pantry and make repairs at the thrift store.
So far, groups throughout the community have pitched in to raise funds. Employees and residents at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living in Walnut Cove joined with some other ladies in the community recently to construct a quilt to raffle off, in addition to holding other fundraisers. Local Vacation Bible School groups brought donations to the outreach, as well as other civic groups and businesses.
“The community is really … they’re all just awesome,” Brown said.
The outreach has held a few fundraisers of its own, and is currently selling Boston butts. These will be picked up on Aug. 18, but people need to call the outreach now to reserve one.
Also, Brown said, “We’re applying (for grants) left and right as fast as we can.”
All money raised right now will go toward a Reynolds matching grant, Brown noted, up to $25,000. East Stokes has also received a Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation grant and another grant from R.J. Reynolds.
“It’s happening,” said Brown. “We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re getting there.”
Those interested in volunteering or contributing to East Stokes Outreach Ministry can call 591-5254.