In the community

Anonymous donor helps Vale Food Pantry find a new home

VALE – The Vale Food Pantry has a new home.

The pantry signed a one-year lease on Monday, May 6, for the former Lienkaemper Funeral Chapel at 222 Yakima St. S.

“We are ecstatic,” said food pantry volunteer Chris Strauchon.

The owner of the building, part-time Vale resident Jack Helm, said he was pleased to work out a deal with the pantry volunteers.

“They are great people,” he said.

The pantry also received big help from a local, anonymous donor who agreed to pay the $2,000 monthly rent on the building for the next year.

“They also told us when it comes time to purchase the building they will want to help us,” said Strauchon.

Strauchon said the path to acquire the building “wasn’t easy.”
“There is a lot of work to be done so it is a little overwhelming but it is really exciting. We are hoping we can make this an incredible adventure,” said Strauchon.

For nearly 20 years the food pantry operated out of the old Vale city hall. The city moved into the former Umpqua Bank building at 150 Longfellow St. N. in 2020 and rented the old city hall to the county and Elkhorn Public Defender. The county used the old city hall for grand jury proceedings for a short time but no longer leases space. Elkhorn Public Defender moved to the old Masonic Hall at 170 Main S.

The city then informed the food pantry it planned to sell the building. Over the years the city paid for the pantry’s utilities when it was in the basement of city hall.

The lease marks a key turning point for the pantry. Just a few months ago, the volunteers and pantry manager Connie Ussing began to scramble to find a new home.

“We were really afraid we’d have to shut our doors,” said Strauchon.

Necessity, though, created opportunities for the pantry. The group began to search for vacant buildings and sought help from the community. The new location provides the food pantry with more than twice the space it occupied in the old city hall.

Volunteer Luwana Hinrich said the building has a carport, which will be a big help when unloading groceries.

“I’m loving this. We have a lot more space,” she said.

Strauchon the goal to be to develop a facility that offers a wide range of services.

“We are trying to create a resource center for Vale as part of our outreach,” she said.

Creating a resource center, she said, where the pantry is just one arm of a multi-faceted approach to assisting Vale residents makes sense.

“Those resources we have, like health and welfare that you have to go to Ontario to access, we are trying to start that here,” said Strauchon.

Meanwhile, Strauchon said the pantry will seek grants to help shore up its financial position.

Ussing said the search for a new home for the pantry could not have ended better.

“It will be so useful. It is accessible and there is plenty of room,” said Ussing.

Ussing said painting and some electrical work needs to be finished before the pantry opens officially but she expects to use the new site to distribute food by early summer.

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