Food bank moves into new home

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Mon., May. 2, 2011
First Selectman Mark Walter, Linda Cherry, Sophie Soja and Sherry Langan celebrate the food bank's new home. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
First Selectman Mark Walter, Linda Cherry, Sophie Soja and Sherry Langan celebrate the food bank's new home. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

After several years operating out of the basement of the town’s old middle school, the East Haddam Food Bank has moved to a new home just down the road. As of May 3, the food bank is located in the newly-renovated basement of the Grange Hall at 488 Town St.

“We think it’s a great added use of the Grange Hall,” said First Selectman Mark Walter, noting that the building is already heavily used. The move, which was necessary due to the planned renovations of the old middle school, was in planning for about six months, said Walter. Renovations to the Grange Hall in preparation for the move included a new fireproof ceiling – which was necessary to make the basement useable – fire alarms, all new doors and a regrading of the parking lot.

“It was an upgrade for the whole building,” said Walter of the $56,000 renovation. Even more work that will help restore some of the area's historic accuracy is planned for the surrounding area, he added, pending the acquisition of grant funding.

The East Haddam Food Bank was started by Linda Cherry in 1999, when, as principal of the middle school, “I saw children who were hungry,” she said. 

“I worried about them going home on weekends, when they would go away on school vacations, over the summer,” she said. 

Operated today by Sophie Soja (Cherry now operates the Marlborough Food Bank), the food bank serves about 250 individuals from about 175 East Haddam families.

Concerned at first that the new space, which is smaller than the food bank's previous home, would not be sufficient, Soja is now thrilled with the clean and brightly-lit new space, which is a stark contrast to the dark and musty basement of the old middle school.

“It’s incredible. It’s like a small grocery store,” said Soja of the new home, with its neatly-filled shelves – recycled library shelves from the middle school – rows of refrigerators and freezers, and even some donated shopping carts. 

“There’s actually a lot of storage here. It’s startling how much it can hold,” said Soja. While the overall area of the new home is smaller than the middle school space, the actual “shopping area” is much bigger, said Cherry.

The move was a combined effort of city workers, Rotarians and other volunteers, and the renovation was a combined effort of many, including the Community Lions Club, which presented Soja with a check for $1,665 to help stock the new shelves.

But unfortunately, there is always a need at the food bank.

“If you have it in your cupboard, that’s what we need,” said Cherry.

Starting May 3, the food bank will operate out of the basement of the Grange Hall, with food pickup on Tuesdays between 10 a.m. and noon, and between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.

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