Perry Area Food Pantry opens its doors in new location

Allison Ullmann
Perry Chief
Volunteers help wheel a shelf down the sidewalk to the Perry Area Food Pantry's new location at 3112 Willis Ave.

A large wooden shelf was wheeled out the front door of the Perry Area Food Pantry, followed closely by carts of canned and boxed food and other items. 

Volunteers wheeled the shelf and carts down the sidewalk from the food pantry’s former location at 3000 E Willis Ave. to its new location at 3112 Willis Ave. Once the shelf was put in place, volunteers set to work filling it with the canned goods before additional shelves arrived.

While the move was planned for later this spring, it was sped up after an inspection was done on the former Rowley Masonic Community building that housed the food pantry. An email came in late on March 16 saying high levels of mold had been found in the building and the food pantry would need to move as soon as possible.

Volunteers wheel carts of food and other items down the sidewalk to the Perry Area Food Pantry's new location at 3112 Willis Ave.

A second email went out later that night to the pantry volunteers asking for help to start the move on March 17. Lois Hoger, volunteer coordinator, said they had around 16 volunteers starting at 10:30 a.m., 18 at 3:30 p.m. and another 17 on March 18 to wrap up the move.

“It’s just amazing that you can do that,” Lois said of moving the food pantry in two days. "To pull in that many people in that short amount of notice, gives you the willingness of our volunteers."

The Perry Area Food Pantry moved into its former location in December 2018. Work then started on looking for a new location about two years into the move as Lou said issues had come up with the heating, air conditioning and water in the former Rowley building.

Volunteers help stock shelves at the new space for the Perry Area Food Pantry, located at 3112 Willis Ave.

Perry Lutheran Homes acquired Rowley Masonic Community in November 2020. Lou said Rev. Max Phillips, CEO of Perry Lutheran Homes, later reached out about the possibility of using two of the independent living cottages. An agreement was reached that provided the cottages to the food pantry in a 10-year rent-free lease.

Construction soon started to convert the one- and two-bedroom cottages into one unit for the food pantry and parking spaces were added.

“The advantages, just the advantage of having the office in the space. If I need to quickly make new order forms, I can walk over and print them out,” Lou said of the new pantry location. “It’s brighter, just the heating and air conditioning and water and we actually have restrooms.”

A sign telling customers the Perry Area Food Pantry has moved to its new location at 3112 Willis Ave.

The Perry Area Food Pantry opened its doors at its new location of 3112 Willis Ave. on Tuesday morning. The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 1-3:30 p.m. Thursdays. 

Lou added that one of the pantry’s primary service goals is to expand the Thursday hours for residents getting off work.

For now, Lou said they plan to continue serving the food pantry customers. The number of households served by the food pantry jumped up in 2020 because of COVID-19. Those numbers came back down from around 120 households served in June 2020 to 60 in June 2021. 

Perry Area Food Pantry Site Manager Lou Hoger talks about the new location at 3112 Willis Ave.

“With the high gas prices and high food costs, I’m anxious to see how much that’s going to impact, I think it’s going to impact us quite a bit,” Lou said.

Lou and Lois are looking forward to continuing to serve the food pantry customers through the new location along with the volunteers.

"We couldn't do it without them," Lois said of the volunteers. 

Volunteers are ready to work the first shift at the new Perry Area Food Pantry location on Tuesday, March 22. Front row, Monica Peitz, Myrna Smith and Sharon Kautzky. Back row, Dean Stumble, Jon Williams and Lou Hoger.