After a multiyear search for a new home, Life Solutions Food Pantry of Hamlin has solved its space problem.
The agency is converting a former small engine repair shop at 1696 Lake Road into its new headquarters. Pantry officials say the approximately 3,000-square-foot building will give the outreach ample room for food storage, meetings, client counseling and education.
The cupboard began in 1982 as Hamlin Bread and Thread, a social ministry of Hamlin’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Now an ecumenical organization, it has outgrown its home in a former parsonage next to Hamlin United Methodist Church and has been searching for a new location for several years.
When volunteers found out that the repair shop was to be sold, they approached the owner about the organization buying the building, which is centrally located near the Hamlin Town Hall, said Linda Ballerstein, pantry coordinator.
Shifts of volunteers have donated weekends and some weekdays to renovate the building.
"The community really has come out," Ballerstein said. "At times we’d have 20 to 30 people who would just show up to help. It was amazing. The first week we did a month’s worth of work."
Yet the food cupboard is anticipating that it will have a large expense to repave the parking lot at the new location and convert a grassy area to pavement. Life Solutions is seeking donations to help defray the estimated $20,000 cost.
The agency also is looking for skilled volunteers to help finish up remaining items, including carpet installation, completing some electrical work and finishing the facility’s wheelchair-accessible bathroom.
Debbie Morehouse, president of Life Solutions, said the agency hopes to move in to its new home during June. She said volunteer workers and donated supplies have materialized as needs have arisen.
"It is amazing how everything has come together," Morehouse said.
Knights of Columbus from Hamlin helped paint several rooms in the new location. Other volunteers including Scout groups, service organizations, church volunteers, firefighters and town employees helped clean, change the fixtures, hang new double-hung windows and replace a garage door with double doors to allow for large-scale food deliveries from Foodlink, the regional food bank.
Skilled volunteers also have helped redo the building’s plumbing and gas lines, and supporters have donated shelving, a washer and dryer, and other furnishings.
Morehouse noted that the expansion is desperately needed as the number of people served by Life Solutions has doubled in recent years. The organization serves 284 adults and 185 children from Hamlin and Clarkson, and the numbers continue to increase.
She said many of those who need help have been unemployed for a long time and receive financial assistance and employment counseling.
"Our clientele is growing by leaps and bounds, and the services they need are increasing, so this building is going to afford us the opportunity to provide more services to people," Ballerstein said.
The expanded pantry will have space to host classes run by Foodlink volunteers on healthy cooking and eating habits. In the past, when area farmers donated such fresh ingredients as cabbage, clients sometimes avoided the vegetables because they did not know how to cook with them, Ballerstein said.
The building also offers Life Solutions a loft area for overflow storage space and room for an ongoing treasure sale. The sale will allow clients to purchase low-cost items they need, and the community also will be able to donate and purchase secondhand items. Money raised from the sale will go toward Life Solutions’ operating expenses.
A small treasure sale at Life Solutions’ current location has been very popular, Ballerstein said. One mom was able to buy her 12-year-old son gently used shoes after his old ones had worn through, and another woman bought a small gift in advance of a trip to meet her new great-grandchild.
"She dug in her pocket for that quarter," Ballerstein said. "She was so pleased to spend that and be able to pay for and have a gift."
EDITOR’S NOTE: To offer assistance, contact Life Solutions at 585-964-7420. The organization also needs help with its paving expense and trucks to help on moving day. Monetary donations may be mailed to Life Solutions of Hamlin, PO Box 160, Hamlin, NY 14464.