A fund-raising event and a donation by a local company have averted a temporary shutdown of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank that had been scheduled for March 31.
Instead of closing its doors this weekend, the food bank will move to a temporary space on Industrial Boulevard offered by Willie's Marine. Also, a dinner and auction hosted by 11 lawmakers netted an estimated $15,000 - enough money to make the move and buy extra refrigerators for food dispensed to the needy, said food bank president Robin Phillips.
"I was ecstatic really," said Phillips of the benefit sponsored by the Elks Club Saturday. "The event went so well and having so many of the legislators show up to help serve and do the dishes was just fun."
The food bank announced the emergency closure last week, saying it had to move from donated space at St. Vincent DePaul's because of expansion projects there. The food bank said it would close temporarily because it didn't have enough cash to lease an alternate space.
News of the closure alarmed the head of Juneau's downtown homeless shelter and dining hall. The Glory Hole serves roughly 150 meals a day at the shelter and also distributes 50 food boxes a month to residents, said executive director Joan Decker. Most of the food - approximately 500 to 750 pounds a week - comes from the Southeast Food Bank.
"Without the food bank, we would be seriously impacted ... we would not be able to serve two of three meals most of the time," Decker said. "At least we are breathing more easily now. We went through a lot of anxiety there not knowing whether they were going to open up soon."
The idea for a fund-raiser came from Kasilof Republican Sen. John Torgerson, said food bank president Phillips, who works as a legislative aide. Torgerson volunteered as head chef, while 10 other lawmakers, including Juneau Republican Bill Hudson, served food, cleared tables and washed dishes, she said. Elks Club volunteers also helped cook dinner for the event, attended by 160 people.
"We were looking at finding money for rent or finding a location. We have been given a temporary location as well as the possibility of a permanent building," said Phillips. "Overall the event was a total success,"
Phillips said an unnamed contributor donated a metal building, which will provide a permanent home for the food bank when it finds an affordable lot.
Although Phillips does not expect any disruption in service to the agencies that use the food bank, Decker, of the Glory Hole, said she is having trouble scraping together enough provisions now because the food bank recently ran low on food. However, food bank manager Paul Hansen said that was unrelated to the space problem.
"We don't have as much food as we would like to have because right now we're in between food drives," Hansen said. "We just couldn't get anything scheduled to go. We were trying to get food drives going but some didn't pan out."
Holland America Line Westours and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line also sponsored the weekend benefit, which the food bank plans to turn into an annual event.
Kathy Dye may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.