Filling the needs of many
BLACKSBURG — After 25 years of serving New River Valley community members, the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry is looking forward to the future in its new building.
Director Fredda Cromer said the food pantry relocated in December from its former location at 550 N. Main St. behind the Blacksburg Baptist Church to the new 3,480-square-foot location at 706 Harding Ave.
The new building is located just behind Blacksburg United Methodist Church’s Christian Life Center and is a much larger space, built for the specific use of the Interfaith Food Pantry.
Cromer, who is entering her 13th year as director, has been dreaming of the new space for many years.
“When I took over, we served about 300 people a month,” Cromer said. “Now we serve 900 people a month and have totally outgrown the facility the baptist church had been providing for us.”
In the former location, volunteers had to go up and down stairs to bring food boxes and bags from its storage location to the patrons on the main floor, said pantry volunteer Vern Simpson.
Simpson said the single-level location eliminates the hassle and allows more time for volunteers and patrons to interact, which he believes is one of the many benefits of the new pantry.
The larger location includes shelves similar to those in a local grocery store, as well as glass-door refrigerators and freezers that hold dairy products and meats.
At the former location, many patrons would be handed “pre-picked” bags that held donated items.
“Now the patrons get to select food they actually like to eat,” Simpson said. “It’s more like a shopping experience rather than just being given bags of food at the door.”
Pantry patron Donna Whittaker, of Merrimac, has been coming to the Interfaith Food Pantry for about six years. Whittaker said she likes the new selection process much better.
“You know you aren’t getting something you can’t use, and you can leave it for the next person that can use it,” Whittaker said. “They’ve been awful good to us, and they respect us. They’ve always been there for us anytime we’ve needed them.”
Whittaker also said she is thankful for the many people that donate food to the pantry.
Among those that donate, Cromer said, are businesses such as Kroger, Food Lion, Chipotle and Pizza Hut.
In addition to items from area businesses, the pantry receives daily donations from individuals, schools, fraternities, sororities and Scout troops.
One of the most recent notable donations came from former Virginia Tech President T. Marshall Hahn.
Hahn’s donation, Cromer said, nearly covered the construction of the new building. The rest of the building was funded by donations of several other individuals, she added.
Cromer, a member of Blacksburg United Methodist Church, said that when the church purchased the property now occupied by its Christian Life Center, she presented the idea of the new building to the church’s pastor, Reggie Tuck.
Tuck reached out to Hahn for funding, Cromer said, and the building was made possible.
Without donations from community members such as Hahn and area businesses, Cromer said, the food pantry wouldn’t exist. Several area churches pitch in, too, she added.
“Many of the churches that help here have coordinators,” she said. “Those coordinators send in their own volunteers to help out each day we’re open.”
The pantry is open from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday and 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Friday. Cromer said the pantry staffs the store during those hours with unpaid, volunteer workers.
“We do not have any paid administration or staff members,” Cromer said. “All the money that comes in goes out as food, and we don’t have any overhead. Everyone here is a volunteer.”
For those hoping to be patrons of the food pantry, Cromer said the individual must be screened by a representative from the New River Community Action to determine eligibility.
In the coming year, Cromer said a NRCA representative will be stationed at the pantry so those hoping to be approved aren’t sent to Christiansburg to be screened.
As for the future of the food pantry, Cromer isn’t ready to look ahead.
Cromer is enjoying the “now.”
“It’s a dream we’ve been dreaming for 10 years now,” Cromer said. “I have no reason to think ahead because I am so pleased with where we are right now.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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