SOMERSET -- Since October 2014, the Somerset Food Pantry has occupied the former home of Grace Place, behind St. Anne’s Church at 203 Church Hill Road. Thanks to an agreement with village, area residents soon will be able to visit the pantry at a new location on Rivard Street.
“Two springs ago, the village approached us with said that they had been talking about selling us a piece of land. We had been talking with them about property and lots for a bit at that point, but they came to us with their own ideas,” said pantry board president Lynn Harstad said. “The village saw the need, recognized the work that we are doing and wanted to partner with us to make this possible. The lot will give us great visibility. It is super nice because it is up by the clinic, the dental office, the post office and the BP Gas station. It is kind of a really great spot for us to be in.”
The village and members of the food pantry board met Aug. 13 to close on the sale of the property, which the village sold to the food pantry for $1.
“As far as the pantry is concerned, we already have a building committee assembled … then we will go through our list of things we need to do for the village, which includes some requirements that need to be done. We will also be setting aside time to meet as a committee to work on this project and asking for bids for builders,” Harstad said. “We will also be touring some other local food pantries to see what their spaces look like and what works well for them, as well as what they wish they would have done differently.”
Once the committee has an idea of what it wants and needs in a new food pantry, the group will start to write grant proposals and start a capital campaign to get community support for the project.
“We will sit down with the builder and give them our ‘pie in the sky’ wishes and ask them how much it would cost. Then we will come back down to reality and look at what we can actually afford,” Harstad said. “But at this point, we really don’t know how much the project will cost. With the bridge opening, we know more people will be coming to this area. So we are kind of taking a ‘if you build it they will come’ approach."
According to Harstad, the pantry looked at purchasing a building a few years ago, but the plans fell through. Throughout the last few years, pantry has looked at its numbers and what kind of increase its might see in the coming years to get a better idea of what the needs of the community are and will be.
“We know that the need is much greater in St. Croix County and our area than the number of people who are coming in to actually receive food from us. We have tried to work on reducing that stigma. We also surveyed the community last year and found that some of our hours weren’t conducive to when people could actually come in. So we opened on Saturdays and our numbers have risen,” Harstad said. “The point of the whole thing was, since we know there are more numbers that need help, are we willing to ask the community for money if we are not going to be able to increase our client base.”
For more information on the food pantry, call 715-247-2945 or email somersetfoodpantry.org.