The Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank will be moving to a new home, hopefully by September of this year.
The Food Bank Society has purchased the former EquiCare Mechanical Services building across from the City of Kimberley public works yard.
It’s an ideal location, says new Food Bank Manager Thom Tarte; plenty of room for expansion, plenty of space already available, plenty of parking.
Tarte is the first paid manager the food bank has ever had, having relied on dedicated volunteers, like Heather Smith, for many years.
Tarte has been on the job about a month and says it is a big learning curve, but the volunteers and he himself are dedicated to making the move happen, as well as operating as normal in the current location until it does.
Although the property is a former garage, there has been no problem getting the proper permits for the usage intended.
“It’s suitable for what we will use it for,” he said. “We’re not digging anywhere.”
Having a property this large, there are plenty of long term plans in the works, Tarte says.
“It’s a good chunk of land there. We have a vision of a commercial kitchen to provide programs. We have more ideas, like greenhouses, to grow food and other revenue generating projects.”
But that’s all long term. Right now renovations are underway to get the building ready for move in, getting it up to code, updating plumbing and more.
It’s all in the capable hands of volunteers Barry Cummins and Dexter McArthur, who are overseeing the renovations.
Tarte says he is amazed and grateful at the donations of time and equipment from contractors so far.
“We call a contractor and they do the work, and it’s not even discussed, they just say it’s free or at a really reduced price. It’s fantastic support from the community.”
Costs of building are going up every day, Tarte says, so these people donating time and machinery and really helping to keep the project on budget.
“I’m quite confident Barry and Dexter are going to reach our goal.”
“Right now our current location is very cramped. Our volunteers have to go down to the basement for supplies. Although we are grateful for where we are, we’re all quite excited.
“The thought of the board was we need to control our own destiny. The vision of the board was to make sure we have secured long-term space, so no decision of a landlord can affect the food bank. The food bank wants to grow.”
The building was purchased through fund raising, savings and donations and the renovations are happening with a generous grant from the Columbia Basin Trust.
The move itself won’t take much time, Tarte says.
There will be more room at the new location for expanded storage and office space, although it is too early yet to determine what might be needed in terms of additional furniture and equipment.
“As we get closer to moving if we could get donations appropriate to our needs, we’d certainly entertain it,” Tarte said. “But we’re trying not to look too far ahead. If you do that, you can lose track of the day to day.”
And day to day, costs of food are rising, and that’s an issue. Tarte says client numbers are not yet jumping, and donations are remaining consistent. He says he has heard client numbers at other food banks are rising as inflation rises, but says Kimberley residents are lucky to have a few options, such as the Food Recovery Program.
“They are doing great work up there and we hope to collaborate more with them in the future.”
Once the move is complete, Tarte says it is part of his job to pursue more diverse funding. But as always, it all comes back to the volunteers.
“We’ve got a great group of volunteers that hold it all together. Without their work and dedication, none of this would happen. We are all excited about the move.”