PEPPERELL -- After more than 40 years of nomadic existence, Pepperell Aid Community to Home will finally have a home. PACH will be permanently sewn into the fabric of the Hollis Street neighborhood. The public is invited to a walkthrough of the new facility on Sept. 21, ahead of the projected formal opening on October 1, when a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony will occur.
The popular food pantry, which feeds nearly 200 families per month, will move out of the Peter Fitzpatrick School, where it has been for at least 10 years. Following a successful fund-raising campaign that helped secure a mortgage on 66 Hollis St. The food pantry has been packing bags for others but will now be packing its own bags in preparation for relocation.
The new location looks much like a home, except for the expansive backside parking lot, among the other single-family dwellings in the residential neighborhood. Lush green lawn leads the way to the bright red building which has 2,200 square feet of space plus another 2,000 in basement.
"The move, and the month-to-month operations, is a community effort," said Patricia Thorpe, a long-time volunteer for PACH. "Hanaford's donates meat to us every month and Donelan's market also gives us a lot." Local farmers donate fresh produce regularly and other merchants offer cleaning supplies, sundries and toiletries. The Lawrence Library fills the bookshelves with donated books, even the federal government chips in with the regular deliveries of USDA surplus canned goods.
"In the old location," explained Thorpe, who is also on the board of directors, "we had to put the groceries into the bags ourselves in the back room. There was just not room for people to come in and walk around. It was a lot of space but spread out over several different, small rooms." The new location offers a vast central area where clients can come in and choose right from the shelves and new coolers, according to their needs.
"We plan to keep the same hours of operation," 5-7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursday only, she said. "We understand that this is a quiet neighborhood and that people don't want a lot of traffic coming in and out. We may, in the future explore the idea of opening on weekends."
Within the scope of the plan, and a benefit of the ongoing fundraising campaign, is a huge new walk-in freezer that will occupy a corner of the newly renovated basement. The community involvement spills over into the actual structure and construction as well. Local building contractor, Dick Egan performed the bulk of the work, most at no or low cost while Preferred Plumbing and Heating did the mechanical along with Wilson Brothers Heating Company. The contractors supplied their own materials.
Egan also did the internal design, based on the existing layout and according to PACH's planned use of the space. Dana Wallboard Company donated the sheetrock while several local businesses provided cash and other ancillary items. The 'community' aspect of the endeavor runneth over even into the physical movement of the pantry. Pepperell-based Bormann Brothers Moving Company will supply the vehicles and manpower needed to transport the entire stocks of products and administrative gear to Hollis Street.
The Fitzpatrick School building, which until recently also housed the North Middlesex Regional School District offices, will be returned to the stewardship of the town. It is unclear exactly what the town will do with the building but a "reuse" committee has been formed to create a list of options.
PACH is unique to other area food-banks in that they make deliveries to shut-ins and the immobile, although the building is ADA-compliant and all within one floor for business. Everything occurs along the backside of the building, out of site from the road. Clients walk in through one door to check in with a volunteer. They fill their shopping bags per the allowable amounts based on family size then exit through another door. As many as 190 people do this, twice a month, feeding by extension to family members about 400 people.