Canal Winchester Human Services Director Penny Miller will get her birthday wish Oct. 4 when she welcomes the public to Canal Winchester's new community food pantry.
An open house is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. at the new 5,000-square-foot facility at 80 Covenant Way.
The pantry currently rents 4,000 square feet of space at 360 W. Waterloo St. It will move to its new location during the first week of October and will start distributing food to clients there from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 9.
"With my birthday falling in the midst of move-in week, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate than to invite everyone to share in our excitement, see our new place and have a piece of birthday cake," Miller said. "I always tell everyone ... all I want for my birthday is to have a mortgage-free building."
Despite its name, Canal Winchester Human Services is not a city department and operates separately from the city. Even so, Mayor Michael Ebert said the food pantry is a valuable resource.
"Hunger and poverty are a great concern in the United States and in the state of Ohio. Having a facility like this in Canal Winchester will be very helpful to many who are in need," he said.
"The city of Canal Winchester is committed to providing assistance to our local food pantry monetarily and with city employees helping with various events like Scouting for Food, Football for Food and the annual Souper Bowl."
Amanda Jackson, the city's finance director, said funds from Canal Winchester's bed tax are used to support the food pantry, among other programs. Canal Winchester City Council determines the amounts that are awarded.
For 2017, the allocation for the food pantry is $1,500, Jackson said.
A capital campaign called One Square Foot established to fund the new facility started in 2013.
Miller said the fundraiser was designed to encourage 10,000 residents to donate $50 each to get the building erected. Having its own space will save about $20,000 Human Services has been paying annually in rental fees.
"We have about $50,000 in outstanding pledges that have not been realized, but assuming they are received, we still need about $45,000 in additional contributions to be mortgage-free," she said.
"As a nonprofit, being debt-free is important because every dollar that we must spend on rent or mortgage is money that is not available for direct programs or services."
The new facility is nearly 1,000 square feet bigger than the West Waterloo Street warehouse. The two acres the new building sits on are owned by United Church Homes and are being leased for $1 a year for the next 99 years.
About half of the new building is dedicated to the food pantry, sorting space and shelf space for food. It also will allow Human Services to provide some programs now under one roof.
"With the extra space, we will have room to house all our seasonal inventory for programs such as Tools for Schools and the annual Adopt-A-Family initiative," Miller said. "The new building will also have covered parking for our senior transportation vehicles, which will be of great benefit."
The new building is also handicap-accessible, has electric wiring dedicated to refrigeration and a more efficient heating-and-cooling system.
"Our new home is situated beside David's Way and Covenant Way, home to more than 100 senior citizens," Miller said. "Many of these folks are already using our services as food pantry and/or senior transportation clients and we are very excited to soon be their neighbor.
"Additional clients will find the location and the building to be much more accommodating and user-friendly," Miller said.
Miller said everyone connected with Canal Winchester Human Services is grateful for every donation to the facility.
"Everything we do, every program we administer, every service we provide is only possible because of the support that we get from our community and I knew that this building project could only be successful with that continued support," she said.
Checks to help pay off the building project can be made out to Canal Winchester Human Services and sent to 22 S. Trine St., Canal Winchester 43110.
Credit card donations can be made online at cwhumanservices.org.