The Good Neighbor Food Pantry has a new home thanks to work of local officials and a church that had the space to spare.
Starting mid-July, the pantry will move into the Christian Science Reading Room building at 89 Tinker Street in Woodstock.
The Christian Science Church will charge $2000 per year for the space. Church officials were more comfortable with leasing the space to the town, so it will act as an intermediary between the food pantry and the church. The food pantry will rent the space from the town and pay for all utilities, including electricity.
Town Supervisor Bill McKenna said he gives a lot of credit to Ulster County Legislator Jonathan Heppner, “who did an incredible job with me to sit down with the church and sit down with the pantry and work out a deal.”
The food pantry will use space in the back, basement and part of the second floor.
The pantry is operating out of space in the Dutch Reformed Church, but reached out for help in March after church officials raised its rent from $1800 to more than $8000 per year. The pantry was able to raise the money to pay the increased rent, but the relationship had soured between the pantry and the church and they were asked to leave by June 1.
Since the pantry has found a new home, the Dutch Reformed Church has allowed them to stay until it can make the move.
“It’s going to give us offices upstairs. We’ll have a big room on the first floor and basement, which will have room for our refrigerators,” said Good Neighbor Food Pantry president Bill McKnight.
The pantry will need money to move because it will need to rent trucks and equipment. Most of those funds will come from a recent GoFundMe campaign started when it was looking for a new space, McKnight said. Just over $6300 was raised from that campaign. United Way kicked in another $1000 when it received news of the pantry’s plight.
“We’re going to get in there and try and do it in one shot,” McKnight said of the move, which will happen soon after lease papers are signed. McKnight said he may get help from the town for the move.
McKnight said ramps need to be installed to make the new place accessible, but it won’t initially be open to the public.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, with the help of volunteers and town employees, delivered boxes of food that was catered to individual dietary needs. It served about 4600 people per week. McKnight anticipates continuing the service as delivery-only until COVID is a thing of the past, or at least for the near future.
The pantry now serves about 2500 to 2800 people per week on average, McKnight said.
The Town Board approved the lease, but it is subject to permissive referendum since the town holds the lease and it involves spending public money. That means the resolution authorizing the lease is set aside for 30 days, giving time for any resident to file a petition with 25 signatures calling for a proposition to be decided on by registered voters. This rarely happens and the action subject to permissive referendum goes into effect.