DuBOIS — The DuBois Food Pantry will have a permanent home by the end of April.

Housed for the past 10 years in Mansell Stadium, the food pantry serves 120 families or about 300 people each time it is open, which is three times a month. The pantry is normally open the first, second and fourth Thursday of every month. However in April, it will be relocating to 228 First St., which most recently had housed the Amish furniture store. Others may remember the location as the Herb and Tom’s grocery store, located almost directly across from the J.E. DuBois Hose Company #3 (Third Ward Hose Co.).

On the pantry’s Facebook page, Rev. John Miller, of Christ Lutheran Church, DuBois, who oversees the pantry’s operations, wrote, “The DuBois Area School District has graciously housed the pantry at Mansell Stadium following the fire at our Jared Street location. They have been a great partner in our ministry and words cannot express our heartfelt appreciation for their help and sacrifice. Now it is time for a permanent location.”

The move to the new site will begin the week after Easter. Because of the time it will take to move and setup the panty will not be open on the fourth Thursday, April 23, but instead will open on the fifth Thursday, April 30. This will give the volunteers a week and a half to get the new site set up, Miller said.

The building, which is about twice as big as the pantry’s current location, offers a chance to streamline the physical process of feeding those in need.

The front entrance, which is easily accessible, leads into the intake waiting area. It is from here that clients will be called into another room to talk with an intake coordinator. The intake coordinators mark a shopping list for the client of needed items, determine if the person qualifies for state or federal food and marks the shopping list according to the size of the family. The number of people in each family will determine the number of each item on the shopping list. While one or two people in a family may receive one jar of jelly, five or six may see two jars included in their order.

Once the intake process is completed the client moves to another waiting area with their shopping list, which is then given to a volunteer behind a counter with a window. Those receiving food cannot get behind the counter, as there are no doorways other than back to the previous waiting room.

The volunteer behind the counter will take the shopping list and pass it on to other volunteers who fill the order from freestanding shelves that hold a variety of food items. When an order is filled the client is given a tag with a number and instructed to get go back to their vehicle and drive it from the parking area behind the building to one of two lanes near the front door. A similar number tag is then placed with the food items for that individual. Once the client drives up to the front of the building, a volunteer will bring the numbered order out to the vehicle.

Besides the food items they’ve selected within the set number of items they can have, many have the addition of state and/or federal food added – if they qualify – as well as a selection of produce. The produce comes from the Food Bank in Williamsport through a program that is free to the food pantry. A truck arrives three times a month with a variety of produce such as apples, oranges, potatoes, eggplants, cabbage and more for the DuBois Food Pantry to give out. The selection varies and is not known ahead of time but is a welcome addition to what the food pantry can provide to its clients.

Another program that is housed at the food pantry now and will be moving to the new location is the Senior Box Program, overseen by Rev. Bob McKay. The program, which is administered by Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania, provides boxes filled with nonperishable food items such as canned fruits, vegetables and meats as well as evaporated milk and fresh cheese. To qualify senior citizens must be at least 60 years old and meet income guidelines. A single senior must have an annual income of no more than $16,237. For a family of four that income level is $33,475, according to Second Harvest’s website.

The back room is where the upright freezers and refrigerators will be located. Miller said it would be nice to eventually have a walk in cooler or freezer. Both would allow the food pantry to store more food items than it currently does and take advantage of the opportunities that come its way. Miller noted he had a trucker offer 99 cases of frozen chicken breasts, a value of $3,000, but the food pantry had to turn it down because it had no where to put them. A walk-in freezer and/or cooler would have allowed them to take the offered chicken and give it out to those in need.

Volunteers are doing all of the work at the new site, Miller said. Community businesses have helped as well, he said, noting donations and price breaks from Lowes and Sherman Williams.

Miller said there were a lot of people working together to facilitate the process of the pantry’s move – the realtor, bank, city officials, and more who cut fees for the non-profit organization. A number of people and organizations “worked together to get us in the building. Now volunteers are working hard to get it ready.”

All of the renovation work has been done and in the coming weeks volunteers are cleaning and painting, while keeping social distancing in mind, to get the building ready for the move in April.

The logistics for the actual move are still being worked out but Miller would love to have access to a truck with a lift gate since the pantry has freezers and refrigerators it will have to move to the new site, along with shelving and skids of food items.

The move has meant that the food pantry now has a mortgage that it needs to pay off. Miller said they are hoping to pay off the $35,000 mortgage, which was for the purchase of the parking area behind the building, as soon as possible. The money they will be paying on the mortgage could be going towards paying for a walk-in cooler or freezer; so the sooner it is paid off the better.

Anyone wishing to donate financially to the food pantry can do so by sending a check made out to the DuBois Area Food Pantry to PO Box 157, DuBois, PA 15801. For food donations, contact Miller at (814) 371-2470.

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