AUGUSTA — Fundraising efforts to support the construction of a home for the Augusta Food Bank are off to a healthy start, with $515,000 already committed toward the goal of $675,000.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking is expected this coming week, as the nonprofit food bank has secured a temporary construction loan from the Genesis Fund to allow it to start work on the facility even before the money is raised to pay for it.

Much of that money already has been raised, food bank officials announced last week.

As of June 1, $515,000 in cash and pledges had been received to help fund the $675,000 project, according to Daniel Wathen, president of the food bank’s board of directors and a former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Wathen said donors to the project seem to realize the critical importance of food.

“This building is crucial, to make sure the ability to feed people remains into the future,” Wathen said. “I think people will respond to the need and put us over the top. We hope to be able to retire our mortgage and put all our money into food, as we have for the last 35 years.”

Three donors — Norm Elvin of G&E Roofing, the John T. Gorman Foundation and local residents Ruth and Wick Johnson — each contributed $50,000 or more to help fund the food bank construction.

Elvin said he gave because he has been blessed to be able to do so, and a big reason he was inspired to donate to the project is that both of his late parents, father Leslie and mother Betty, used to volunteer at the food bank. The existing food bank is located in St. Mark’s Church’s parish hall on Summer Street, but is expecting to move to a now-vacant lot at 161 Mount Vernon Ave.

“Dad use to move food from a warehouse up to St Mark’s Church, and they’d both help up there,” Elvin said. “I remember going with him a few times. They didn’t have a lot of money, but they certainly gave of their time. And sometimes that’s more important.”

Johnson said his donation was made in part because his wife, Ruth, volunteers at the food bank. He said the food bank plays a significant role in feeding local people in need.

“When people are working as hard as these folks (at the food bank), you want to support them,” he said.

The proposed new building will be on a 1.3-acre lot donated by local resident and businessman Norman Pomerleau.

The 4,100-square-foot facility is expected to be large enough to both store the food given out by the group and distribute food from the same spot. Now, food is distributed at St. Mark’s, which is for sale; but there isn’t enough space to store it there, so food is kept in a warehouse off Bangor Street and shuttled by van to St. Mark’s for distribution.

The Augusta Planning Board approved construction at the new site last month.

Al Smith, the food bank’s executive director, said the new location will make more efficient operation possible.

The Augusta Food Bank was founded in 1981 by a group of local churches. It serves people from Augusta and Manchester.

Last year the food bank supplied groceries that were expected to provide 270,000 meals to 3,300 people.

The new location will have parking for 22 vehicles and a waiting room with seating for 26 people.

Both the current St. Mark’s location and the planned new Mount Vernon Avenue location are near residential areas of the city.

Wathen said in recent years food bank officials informally surveyed clients to ask if there was an area of the city they would find it hard to get to, if the food bank were to move. He said most responded that as long as it moved to somewhere within the city limits, they still could go there to pick up food.

Martyn Vickers, a donor to the project and a member of the food bank’s board of directors, said he and others gave to it because they see the need.

“Everyone is entitled to food, and if the government doesn’t provide it, the people need to do it,” Vickers said. “The Augusta Food Bank, to me, is the core of distributing food to those in need.”

Wathen said he has been pleasantly surprised by the openness people seem to have to donating to the food bank.

“I think it’s because people understand the needs of families and appreciate it at a great level,” he said. “People realize having food is critical. You can’t do anything else without it.”

The site will have a loading dock for vans and room for tractor-trailers to make deliveries of food.

Donations may be made online at the food bank’s website at www.augustafoodbank.org, or taken to the food bank’s current 9 Summer St. location.

The food bank is open from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Mondays.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj