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Partners in Mission celebrate 40 years with new building announcement

On Monday, Partners In Mission food bank celebrated their 40 year anniversary in Kingston, and the celebration coincided with the announcement that the food bank is moving into a building that will expand and change the way they can serve their clientele.

The food bank announced that they’ll move into a facility more than twice the size of the one they’ve occupied for over 20 years, and will have better storage capacity and bring new opportunities to serve clients.

Currently the Hickson Avenue location is 7,200 square feet, but the new building dwarfs that at 17,500 square feet.

Staff and volunteers at Partners in Mission were joined on Monday by local politicians, city councillors and other Kingston residents to celebrate the anniversary and news on Monday, while City Council also declared the date “Partners in Mission Food Bank day”.

MP Mark Gerretsen’s post during his visit to Partners in Mission on Monday

The food bank purchased the new location at 4 Harvey Street -just about 400m from their current location- in April, and have been working on renovations ever since.

For the $3.3 million building purchase they used reserve funds that had been accumulated and credit for the difference.

Executive Director Dan Irwin said it’s a much needed upgrade, as they’re reaching their physical limit of how many people they can serve with the need being high in the community.

“Some days we get to 100 hampers a day, and that’s really close to maximum capacity in this building,” Irwin said.

“The new place is twice the size of this, so we’re going to be able to have a larger walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer, and because it’s such a large space, we’re going to be able to have our clients do what we call a shopping model.”

While clients have previously just picked up hampers which might contain items they won’t or can’t use, this model allows them to pick the products and brands that they want.

It’s a model that many food banks across Canada have been following, and Irwin says has been fairly well received where adopted as it allows for more choice among the food bank clients, and often less waste in doing so.

He says clients in Kingston wanted to see a model like this if it was possible, and it will generally improve the entire experience of using the services at Partners in Mission.

“Right now, we are so busy that people are lined up outside in all weather,” Irwin said.

“This will bring them inside, so they’ll have a more comfortable shopping experience… And we have surveyed our clients, and there was an indication by the majority of them that they wanted to have this type of model.”

The new building should allow for Partners in Mission to serve more clients and to accept and preserve more donations, with the lack of space recently becoming a limiting factor.

Irwin said that in particular he expects they’ll be able to accept more fresh food from grocers that is nearing the end of its life or may have some blemishes.

“We do anticipate that as we get better facilities, we’ll be able to get more fresh food donated from grocery stores,” Irwin said.

“We’re going to try and be able to do more of that in the new location. And again, with a bigger, cooler facility, we’ll be able to handle that volume much better.”

After using their reserve funds and credit to purchase the building they’ll move into, Partners in Mission are optimistic that the sale of their current building will provide enough to pay off their mortgage.

The building is not yet up for sale, and won’t be until an official moving date is set, with a move expected to take place early next year.

Irwin says there is however an immediate need for the food bank as their attention turns to the remaining $1 million they need for their renovation fund, a fund for which they’re seeking donations.

On Monday, Irwin said the organization wanted to use the celebration to thank the community for allowing Partners in Mission to do the work that they do.

“We really wanted to recognize the community and say a huge thank you for supporting us all these 40 years,” Irwin said.

“There’s been donations of food and money and time, and we’re kind of just that piece that helps bring it all together, but it’s truly neighbor helping neighbor in our organization.”

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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