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Willmar Area Food Shelf to open New London office

NEW LONDON -- Volunteers have been painting and cleaning as plans move ahead to open the Willmar Area Food Shelf's new satellite office Sept. 8 in a former New London clinic.

The new site is called the Willmar Area Food Shelf Northern Office and is located in the former Affiliated Community Medical Centers clinic. The building was bought this past spring by the adjoining Evangelical Covenant Church. The church had considered the possibility of using the property for parking, but decided to make the space available to nonprofit, community organizations.

"We thought it was a good opportunity and everything worked out to purchase it,'' said Dan Johnson, church chairman.

The Food Shelf is renting four small rooms for offices and a larger room for food storage.

Other groups renting space in the building are The Link, an ecumenical organization helping low-income individuals and families in northern Kandiyohi County, and Youth For Christ.

Johnson said one wing of the building remains open.

The Food Shelf started in 1982 and served approximately 60 households per month during the first year.

By 2008, the number had increased to an average of 489 households per month.

This year, the shelf served a record number of families in June and July, with 620 in June and 622 in July. Last year, the shelf served 520 families in June and 562 families in July last year.

Christie Kurth, Food Shelf director, said the shelf was looking at expanding services into the northern part of the county when the church called.

"It just all kind of fell into place,'' said Kurth. "It's a great deal for us and for the other partners. It's going to benefit the community in many ways.''

The satellite office will alleviate some of the hardship of Food Shelf clients traveling from northern Kandiyohi County to the main office in Willmar, said Kurth. The Food Shelf has 2,879 registered client households, of which 10 percent to 12 percent live in the northern part of the county.

"It can be a struggle for them. If they can't afford food, are they able to afford gas? A lot of times we see the people from the northern part of our county carpooling or getting rides or people they know stop and pick up a food order for them,'' said Kurth after a walk through the new office.

"We're hoping that bringing it to them will relieve some of that pressure and angst for them and we'll be able to serve them a little bit easier,'' she said.

Kurth said some clients will still come into Willmar and some may work in Willmar. They may need to make a trip to the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building and they may stop at the Food Shelf, she said.

"But we will be linked so that we'll ask our clients to make a choice whether they'll be serviced from this location or the Willmar location because we want to ensure that they're not being served more often than other clients,'' said Kurth.

"We feel that we've worked very hard to make that a very credible nonprofit and that people know that when they are either donating to this location or receiving the services that this office is going to be run as efficiently as the other office,'' she said.

The New London office will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday and will be staffed by New London and Spicer area volunteers.

The number of hours and days of operation could change, however, depending on the need, said Kurth.

"Now we just want to get open and running,'' she said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150