Local families forced to adapt as Community Compassion Network loses physical location
Ben Thrush and Betty Zelinski get their baby food from Community Compassion Network. As they waited for their turn, both sat in a row of chairs alongside their six-month-old son, Benjamin, and Zelinski's mother, Jean Hubel.
Once they hear their names, the family from Lake will walk up to the front desk inside the CCN building to a volunteer waiting for them. That volunteer will walk with them to each shelf of food to make sure they take one food item per shelf.
As of June 26, they will no longer be able to continue receiving services from CCN – the business will be ceasing its food bank operations due to an inability to keep up with the payments required to keep it open.
In the interim, the business will be looking for a new building, a task that involves CCN's leadership searching for at least six business partners or sponsors to each donate $20,000 a year, said Faye Schaffer, the interim director of the food bank.
"To operate comfortably and be in the kind of building that we would like to be in, we would like to have $180,000 per year to cover all of our expenses," she said. "Our highest priority is to get a strong financial backing. It's going to take people in the community hearing about the food pantry, opening their wallets and contributing the money."
However, the business isn't closing entirely, rather, its owners will be shifting its focus to mobile food pantries. The organization operated by volunteers like Gary McFarland, who may have his responsibilities changed to the mobile food pantry effort.
"Everybody has this misconception that we’re closing and not coming back, and that’s not it. It’s going to be more of a restructuring to make it more efficient and more within our price range and within the guidelines of what they can support," McFarland said.
McFarland understands the huge need for this service, emphasizing that those who help will get it even if its not in a the form of a physical, permanent location.
"They come through and see what’s on the shelves and they can pick what they want," McFarland. "We don’t put the items on a box and hand it to them and say, 'Here you go.' We give them what they want to get that they’re going to use."
While the operation will continue to serve its patrons, albeit in a more limited capacity, Thrush said one of the reasons he visits CCN is because of the shelter it offers from the elements, a facet he said is not found at other local food banks.
“We don’t like going to the churches and waiting outside all day," Thrush said. "Half the time, they don’t have baby food like this place does. It’s just too hot outside.”
Hubel agreed, and hopes CCN can succeed in finding a new building soon in finding.
“We’ve been coming for about two years," Hubel said. "My husband would always drop me off while he went to the doctor. Here, you don’t have to stand in lines. That would take up a whole day. He won’t go to them for standing in line for so long. He’s 74 years old, and I’m 70 years.
"(My husband) was so upset when he found out it was closing, because he likes to come here. He can’t stand and walk because he has old knees.”