The Rim Country has had the services of a food bank since 1983. Now, after 23 years, the food bank has a home of its own.
A grand opening celebration is planned for the food bank's new home at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9. The Rim Country Food Bank is located 511 S. St. Phillips St. in Payson, at the northwest corner of the property of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church.
The food bank was started by the Telephone Pioneers organization and was open once a month. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Philip's took over the service in 1994 and now has the food bank open three times a week.
The food bank made use of some extra space at St. Philip's for a number of years, but as the need for the service grew, so did the need for more space.
"The old one was way too small," said Bob Closs, co-president of the society with Richard Krause. "There was a lack of confidentiality."
The new facility took two years of effort, he said. Originally, the plan was to add on to the church building, but that did not work out.
"It turned out to be a blessing," Closs said. The church offered to lease the society the land for the building, which is owned by St. Vincent de Paul Society. He said the site gives the food bank the access where it wants it, providing a waiting area for clients, offices where volunteers can meet privately with people and help them with other needs, lots of storage for food, including a walk in cooler/freezer combination, plus access for deliveries of food. They opened for business in January.
The food comes from a variety of sources. Rim Country businesses, churches, clubs, service organizations, schools and individuals make contributions; St. Vincent de Paul Society provides goods from its main food bank, much of it is reclamation of food (dented cans) from Valley supermarkets; United Food Bank gives U.S.D.A. surplus foods; and produce comes from Second Harvest through the St. Mary's Food Bank.
The Rim Country Food Bank is operated with about 40 volunteers, led by Wayne Parent, manager.
"They come from throughout the community," Parent said. "From different churches and people just wanting to do something to help. We always need volunteers, especially strong, young men. Everyone is trained."
The support for the Rim Country Food Bank's new home throughout the community was as outstanding as the support for its ongoing efforts to feed those in need. While volunteers provided much of the labor, Amon Builders served as general contractor, and assistance came from:
St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church
Town of Payson
Payson Concrete and Materials
Roy Haught Excavating
Arizona Public Service
Apex Land Surveying
Payson Classic Car
Mogollon Health Alliance
Closs said the neighbors have also been very supportive of the food bank.
"We checked with them about the increase in traffic," he said.
The food bank is still working to pay off a $35,000 no-interest loan it took out for building costs.
There are two primary fund-raisers for the food bank, a golf tournament in April and a big yard sale that is planned for Sept. 22 and 23 at St. Philip's.
The food bank is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On average, 40 to 50 boxes of food are given out, some families get as many as four boxes due to the number of people in the household. The food bank serves outlying areas and other organizations as well, including the Pine food bank, Payson Community Kids, the Time Out Shelter, Veterans Helping Veterans, the senior centers and low-income housing facilities in the area.
The food bank needs the most help stocking its shelves in February and March. And there is always a need for peanut butter, macaroni and cheese mixes, pancake mix and syrup, and tuna.
"There are a lot of latchkey children in the area and these are things they can use to prepare their own meals," Parent said.
Closs said the Rim Country Food Bank is only part of the network of agencies and organizations helping the area's residents who are in need of assistance.
"Not one of us could do it by ourselves," he said.
The grand opening ceremony will be held at 11 a.m., with an invocation by the Rev. Charles Proudfoot of the Payson Community Presbyterian Church. The town will be represented by Councilor John Wilson. Rick Kroy, director of the Gila County Community Assistance Program, will also be taking part. Presentations of appreciation will be made to the businesses and agencies that helped in the construction of the food bank's new home. Tours of the facility will be provided and a buffet will be served afterward in the St. Philip Parish Hall. Reservations for the buffet are requested. Call (928) 474-9104 for details.