Food Bank Amps Up Fundraising

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 9:57 am

By MATT BALDWIN Whitefish Pilot

The North Valley Food Bank has a long list of reasons why they’re aiming to build a new distribution center at Baker Commons. The current facility on First Street is too crowded, lacks storage space and maintenance expenses have climbed beyond reason.

As their fundraising campaign kicks off this summer, volunteers are looking to spread the word about why a new facility is needed and about how a permanent endowment will help fund the organization into the future.

Shane Moss, who is on the food bank’s fundraising committee, recently compiled a list of deficiencies with the current distribution center. He notes that perishable food is often stored off-site or even outside on the street. As it is now, semi-trucks drop off donations at Midway Rental and pickup trucks are used to haul those items to the food bank.

“Freezers and some of the equipment is nearing the end of their life expectancy,” Moss notes, “and repair bills are increasing.”

North Valley Food Bank – Storage Space

Longtime food bank director June Munski-Feenan confirms those concerns.

“We need safer and more reliable equipment,” she said. “Right now, I have to store some of our food off the premise. It would be so nice to have everything under one roof.”

The handicap ramp is too steep, Moss goes on to explain, and without a covered waiting area, people often have to stand in line outside in the snow or rain.

“The current location is actually a converted home that we’ve had to make work over the years,” said Stephanie Walls, who has volunteered for the food bank since 1997.

Without enough space for the 343,000 pounds of food that moves through the current distribution center each year, the food bank has plans to build a new, bigger home on Flathead Avenue near The Wave. The proposed 4,800-square-foot facility will accommodate all of the food bank’s needs.

“It will provide the space necessary to store all the supplies on site in freezers that work and on shelving with easy access,” Moss said.

The kitchen area allows space for cooking and canning classes and the loading docks will give semi-trucks direct access for deliveries.

While the building is estimated to cost about $800,000, the remainder of their $1.5 million fundraising goal will go toward a permanent endowment.

Munski-Feenan, who turned 85 last month, has volunteered her time as director for 34 years. Like Munski-Feenan, all of the workers at the food bank volunteer their time.

The endowment is being set up to help fund day-to-day operations and maintenance, and to prepare for the future when a paid director and staff may be necessary.

“Do we really think we are going to be able to find a dedicated director in the future who will do it for free?” questioned Linda Engh-Grady, executive director of the Whitefish Community Foundation. “Of course not. The food bank needs a strong endowment as much as they need a new building.”

The food bank recently launched a new website detailing their services and offering more information on the plans for the new distribution facility.

“This is a vital community effort to make sure these programs remain into perpetuity,” Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld said.

To make donations, visit the North Valley Food Bank at 311 East First St. in Whitefish or go online to www.northvalleyfoodbank.org. The food bank is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation and donations are tax deductible.