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Food bank sets sights on new home

Wilsonville Community Sharing to lease space from Grace Chapel


by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville Community Sharing is pursuing a proposal to lease space at an office facility owned by Grace Chapel.Wilsonville Community Sharing has finally set its sights on a new home and is forging a new partnership.

During a special meeting March 4 the WCS board agreed to pursue a lease agreement with Grace Chapel for space in its facility on Boberg Road. Grace Chapel holds services at its church on Boeckman Road and has office space on Boberg Road and is vacating that facility in May.

This decision puts a temporary end to Wilsonville Community Sharing’s larger vision of using a grant to build its own facility at a cost of $800,000. However, board members agreed the new proposal is feasible, the price is affordable and the location is desirable.

WCS currently operates a food bank out of Meridian United Church of Christ - commonly known as Frog Pond Church — and assists with utilities, housing and prescriptions for those in need.

In 2013, it provided more than 1,200 services and distributed more than 24,000 pounds of food to help 4,020 people in 1,271 families.

Wilsonville Community Sharing was first organized in the late 1970s and eventually reorganized as a nonprofit in 1997. In 2000, it opened the Wilsonville Food Bank.

For nearly three years, WCS has wished to expand beyond its current location. In January 2013, the group stated publicly it had identified three potential sites to build a new facility, thanks in part to a $240,000 community development block grant it was awarded in July 2012.

The city of Wilsonville also grants nearly $30,000 a year to WCS. It has been supporting the organization financially for the last 15 years, with the amount growing over the years. This money now comprises fully 40 percent of WCS’s annual revenue.

At the March 4 meeting the board weighed in on three different options and locations.

“It has been a long process ... but I think we are nearing the end of the process,” said Rich Truitt, WCS board chairman.

Two options included long-term leases and the construction of a building or installation of a modular building on church property — either Frog Pond Church on Boeckman Road or Wilsonville United Methodist on Wilsonville Road.

The benefits of those options included that the much larger buildings would be permanent and included leases between 25 and 50 years. WCS could also have the option of purchasing the property at United Methodist Church in the future.

However, the negatives board members pointed out were the locations of the properties — not on bus lines, not easily accessible for deliveries — and the daunting task of fundraising $500,000 by May with just $51,124 currently raised.

Both of those options were introduced more than a year ago. Near the end of 2013, Grace Chapel came forward with a proposal for WCS. The church offered to lease a portion of its building — 1,300 square feet — on Boberg Road to WCS at a cost comparable to what WCS currently pays, which is $500 a month.

Grace Chapel has a vision to turn the facility into a community resource center, with WCS as the cornerstone. The building has storage space for the food bank along with offices, counseling space, a conference room, a kitchenette and restrooms.

The church has offered WCS either five-year or 10-year renewable lease for the space, with rent increasing $100 a year for the first five years. Grace Chapel also committed $10,000 to make upgrades to the space. The building is located on a side street, which may provide some privacy for the people using the services. Board members also liked its location on a bus line and its location for ease of deliveries.

The community block grant could not be used toward the Grace Chapel space unless the lease agreement is for 10 years. However, since not much is needed to move into the space, that additional funding may not even be needed. The only thing WCS would need to add is a rollup door to facilitate deliveries.

“Each of these sites have been evaluated against a set of criteria established over a year ago,” Truitt said of the selection process.

Each of the attending board members weighed in on their site preference and their reasoning. Board member Wes Morris was not present.

Larry Edwards expressed concern about raising $500,000 in a matter of months. He said the Boberg building is “move-in ready” and has the option if WCS wishes to pursue its own building in the future they still can.

“I don’t think I want to even ask for the block grant,” Edwards said, explaining the block grant comes with a lot of restrictions and stipulations.by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville Community Sharing currently operates out of Meridian United Church of Christ.

Cheryl Kelly also supported the Boberg site.

“The idea is to support expansion of services, to support staff in their work, which in turn supports the community,” she said.

Though she would ideally like WCS to have its own facility, Hill said the Boberg Road is the next best option. Both Ron Owens and Claudia Roldan agreed.

For board member Michelle Labrie-Ripple, cost was “key.” She said large donors are reluctant to donate toward capital costs and would rather donate toward services. She also highlighted the synergy of working with Grace Chapel with similar long-term goals of providing services to the community.

Truitt, however, leaned toward building a facility and tackling the fundraising.

“Unlike others, I think we can do it,” he said. “It’s clear where most people are leaning. I recognize my views are not those of those around the table.”

But he said the Grace option had its positive features too.

“The fact that it is nearly move-in ready is very attractive,” Truitt said. “My commitment to Wilsonville Community Sharing and to each of you is stronger than any one option. We have to be together; we have to be united.”

The board also discussed the fact that the Boberg Road property, though owned by a church, has never operated as a church and would allow more ease in separating the issue of church and state. Since the nonprofit receives city funding, it cannot be affiliated with a religious organization.

“This would give us an immediate opportunity to do the job we are doing even better without sacrificing our goals,” said Edwards.

Though the board all agreed to pursue the Grace Chapel option, there are still some hurdles to go through. WCS has already entered into a lease agreement with Frog Pond Church, which it must now ask to back out of, as well as dealing with the logistics of declining the community block grant.

The next Wilsonville Community Sharing board meeting is slated for March 20 at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit wilsonvillecommunitysharing.org.


By Lori Hall
Editor
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