Food-basket program shuts down

St. Martin's loses space near airport

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2003

A local provider of food for the poor closed its doors this week but is seeking a new location.

St. Martin's, which is independent but affiliated with the St. Vincent de Paul charities, lost its donated space near the airport at Dreams TFC Inc., a nonprofit service agency for children that closed last month.

St. Martin's provided about 100 food baskets a month to needy families, volunteers said. It is named for the 17th century Peruvian Dominican brother Martin de Porres, who fed the poor.

The group's baskets typically hold tuna, chicken or beef; tomatoes, beans, peas and corn; soup, fruit, beans and pasta - and milk, eggs and cheese when available.

"What we do is emergency food services for anybody in need of food," said St. Martin's treasurer Hank Benton. "All they have to say is they need food and they get it. But it's once a month (per family). If we did it more than that, we'd be out of food."

Clients include single parents, seniors and some two-earner families that don't have enough money for food after paying rent.

St. Martin's is staffed by 15 to 20 volunteers and funded by donations, but it can't afford to pay for rent and utilities. It needs 750 to 1,000 square feet of donated space, Benton said.

Until October, when it moved into the Dreams building, St. Martin's was housed in a small space at St. Vincent's. For now, St. Martin's will hold its refrigerating equipment in a St. Vincent's truck and store its food at St. Paul's Catholic Church, Benton said.

"We are crammed ourself for space," said Dan Austin, executive director at St. Vincent's. But if a new location for St. Martin's isn't found, then St. Vincent's would provide food baskets on an emergency basis, he said.

But, Austin added, "with the formal conference (of St. Martin's) we're much more effective in meeting the needs of people every month who need food regularly."

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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