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YEAR IN REVIEW - Columbia Pacific Food Bank looks to upgrade facilities, expand capacity with new building

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO - The Columbia Pacific Food Bank purchased this building on Columbia Boulevard earlier this year. The new building is five times as large as the current food bank warehouse on Milton Way.YEAR IN REVIEW — The Columbia Pacific Food Bank is looking at big changes down the road, including occupying a larger building, for which the majority of funding for the renovation has already been secured.

In January, the food bank began the process of purchasing a former feed supply store on Columbia Boulevard in St. Helens for $350,000, closing on the deal in March.

Columbia Pacific Food Bank Executive Director Casey Wheeler said the board of directors had been looking for a larger facility for several years and had been saving funds to help make the purchase possible.

The new facility offers a 12,500-square-foot floor plan which is five times larger than its current 2,500-square-foot building on Milton Way.

Wheeler explained the new facility will allow the food bank to expand its warehouse storage space, as well as install more refrigerators. The larger floor plan will also allow the food bank to set up a kitchen where cooking classes can be taught or visitors can sample food items.

"Sometimes clients are hesitant to take food because they don't know what to do with it," Wheeler previously told the Spotlight.

Other plans include the creation of a repack room where volunteers can break down items donated in bulk. The new facility is also more centrally located and will be handicap accessible.

In order to tackle the upgrades needed to make those plans a reality, Wheeler sought out grant funding. Working with the city of St. Helens, the food bank applied for assistance. In October, Wheeler announced the food bank was selected to receive $1.5 million from Business

Oregon. The money will

cover the majority of the renovation costs, Wheeler explained.

Initially, Wheeler estimated $1.5 million in renovation costs, but later bumped up the estimate to $1.75 million, to account for contingencies in rising construction costs, Wheeler explained. The food bank is also hoping to fund-raise to make up the $250,000 difference.

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