ROCKLAND — AIO Food and Energy Assistance has announced the public phase of its capital campaign in support of their new building, located at 1A Gordon Drive in Rockland. The expanded and renovated building will serve as AIO’s new home where they will be able to serve More Food, More Often, said Area Interfaith Outreach, in a news release.
To date, AIO has raised $1 million, which is 85 percent of the $1.2 million capital campaign goal.
“Nearly 1 out of 5 of our neighbors utilize the services of AIO across our county, including the islands,” said Liz Jenkins, AIO’s Board president. “The new building will allow for a dramatically more efficient system of handling food, a safe and secure environment for our clients, and the opportunity to better integrate and partner with other social service providers.”
AIO’s Board of Directors recognized that having more operational space was essential to meet the growing demands of the programs. In 2018, AIO purchased the new building, located adjacent to their current location at 70 Thomaston Street. In September 2019, AIO began the expansion and renovations to the building which will provide double the space of the existing building.
The new 3,800 square-foot building will allow AIO to offer More Food, More Often to those who need food and energy assistance. Instead of once per month, clients will be welcome to come to the Food Pantry twice per month. The building will include a larger, comfortable waiting room and market place for clients, a private intake office, consultative offices for the AIO Energy Assistance program, loading dock, receiving and processing areas, commercial refrigeration, and a root cellar for fresh produce storage.
The expanded storage space will enable AIO to place larger orders of shelf-stable food that can be stored onsite, removing the current logistics involved with storing food off-site until there’s space to move it to the pantry. With expanded refrigeration and freezer capacity, AIO will also be able to offer storage to the other eight Knox County food pantries when it’s needed.
“This project has been an amazing journey and is a testament to the many people who have helped translate our vision into a reality. This is truly a building built by the community, for the community. I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who has played a part in helping us reach this point,” said Jenkins. “We are in the final phase and so close to the finish — it’s my sincere hope that community members will consider a contribution — no matter how big or small — to help us complete the building and open the doors. I am looking forward to the day when we can gather to celebrate what we’ve been able to create together. From our new building we will truly be able to serve more people, More Food, More Often.”
When the current food pantry operations shift over to the new facility, the current building will become home to AIO’s Weekend Meal Program (formerly known as Backpack/Child Hunger), which currently operates out of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Rockport, who have graciously hosted the program since its beginning in 2015. With both of AIO’s Food Assistance programs on the same “campus” food acquisition, storage and distribution operations will be aligned.
The Midcoast Diaper Project and One Less Worry, both of whom provide much needed basic necessities to the community, will also be able to storage their materials in this building. The building purchase was made possible by the Genesis Community Loan Fund. AIO has worked with architect, Zander Shaw of ZShaw Architecture to design a highly efficient and functioning food pantry which better serves the community. Chip and Nick Bauer of Harbor Builders have led the team of builders and contractors who’ve all contributed to the building expansion and renovations.
Generous support from individuals, foundations and businesses have brought the project to this point. Business support has come from: Harbor Builders, Viking Lumber, Gartley & Dorsky, First National Bank, Good Shepherd Food Bank, ZShaw Architecture, Camden National Bank, Adventure Advertising, Rockport Steel, Machias Savings Bank, and C.O. Beck & Sons.
A grant from The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, in partnership with Penquis, supports the building of a fresh produce distribution center (the root cellar), serving all nine food pantries in Knox County. Produce will come from the Knox County Gleaners, backyard/personal gardens, the Rockland Community Garden, as well as the Good Shepherd Mainers Feeding Mainers program.
The campaign has less than $200k remaining to raise in order to complete the project. An anonymous donor has lent their support to AIO’s capital campaign by offering to match new campaign donations – dollar for dollar up to $250,000. To donate, checks can be mailed to: AIO Food and Energy Assistance, PO Box 113, Rockland, ME 04841 or online on our website.
For more information about AIO’s new building capital campaign or to discuss ways to help email Liz Jenkins at email@example.com or visit aiofoodpantry.org, where you will find a film about the new building project.