Work begins on food pantry
By REBECCA BERDAR Staff Writer
Work is underway at the future home of the Huntingdon Area Food Pantry as the agency continues to seek funds to support the renovation and relocation project.
Mel’s Concrete LLC, Huntingdon, started work on the former service station, located on the 700 block of Penn Street, the week of Dec. 5. Jean Feagley, the food pantry’s executive director, said Mel Woomer and crew are tasked with preparing the cinderblock structure for extensive interior and exterior renovations.
The Huntingdon County Foundation (HCF) stepped up with a $2,000 donation Dec. 21 to support the food pantry’s relocation plan. HCF treasurer John Eastman said the contribution was made possible by the Dave Goodman Fund, which is part of the HCF Endowment.
Eastman and HCF board member Dr. Craig Eisenhart took a brief tour of the building and viewed blueprints with Feagley during their visit to the site Dec. 21. The project’s architect is Greg Larson.
“It’s really exciting,” Feagley said when asked how it feels to finally have workers on site.
Woomer, who was on site during the tour, said his role is “to do anything (he) can to help” prepare the building for the next step in the project.
Feagley said the food pantry is still waiting on bids for the construction phase of the project.
The food pantry purchased the property earlier this year and, at first, the agency set its sights on a grand opening in October.
Feagley said the process has moved along at a slower pace than anticipated and said the food pantry is currently aiming to move into its new home this spring. She noted that, with so many steps to go yet, those plans are subject to change.
During the short tour, Feagley said that while the service station will require extensive remodeling to suit the food pantry’s specific needs, it offers several key advantages that will help the agency better serve its clients.
The structure is one story with no stairs to create accessibility challenges for clients facing mobility issues. The building’s single-story status will also benefit volunteers who currently haul goods up and down the flight of stairs leading into the basement of the First United Methodist Church in Huntingdon, the pantry’s home since 1983.
In addition, Feagley said the property’s large parking lot will allow tractor-trailers to unload goods right to the food pantry’s door, another advantage which will help the volunteers who help stock shelves.
Inside, the building will have ample space to stock food and prepare orders for clients. The renovation plan includes creation of an office, staff restrooms, utility closet and a reception area for clients.
During the tour, Eisenhart observed that the building’s location — along one of Huntingdon main thoroughfares — will provide the food pantry with increased visibility.
Because the property sits in a flood zone, Feagley said one of the project’s top priorities is make the building as flood-resistant as possible. She said doors will be equipped with special seals, for example, to keep the waters at bay during a flood event.
Feagley said the project will unfold in phases, noting the agency’s immediate goal is to renovate the building and move in. Parking lot improvements and landscaping, which were part of the original plan, will follow at a later time.
Individual and local organizations, like the Huntingdon County Foundation, are supporting the project with cash and in-kind contributions. Eastman noted that the Huntingdon Rotary Club, for example, has committed to purchasing a large double-door refrigerator for the food pantry once renovations progress enough to install appliances.
The Huntingdon Area Food Pantry opened its doors nearly 40 years ago in the basement of the First United Methodist Church, Fifth and Mifflin streets, Huntingdon. The pantry has remained at the church ever since, expanding as needed into different spaces within the basement.
The service station was home to Paul’s Mobile, owned and operated by the late Paul Busko and his wife, Linda, from the late 1960s through the early 1990s. After Busko moved his car repair business across the river to Smithfield Township, the family leased the building for storage.
Until the renovations are complete, the food pantry will continue its operations from the First UMC basement. Hours are 8:30-11 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. To inquire about volunteering or to make a donation to the renovation project, call Jean Feagley at 814-386-0282. The pantry’s mailing address is P.O. Box 582, Huntingdon, PA 16652.
Rebecca can be reached at email@example.com.