FAIRFIELD — A $25,000 matching pledge has allowed the Interfaith Food Pantry to reach the halfway mark in a campaign to raise $100,000 for a new base of operations.

In 2011, the pantry’s longtime home, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on High Street, was closed by Corpus Christi Parish as part of a larger church restructuring.

Since then, the pantry has been operating out of the First Baptist Church on Newhall Street. Pantry leaders said they are grateful to have their current home, but it is not ideally suited for their work of feeding those in need.

The fundraising effort got a boost this week, when Mark Scribner, a businessman who runs a manufacturer representative’s firm in Windsor, made good on a pledge to match $25,000 in donations.

The matching pledge was triggered when the Corpus Christi Parish delivered a check for $3,654 from its members that put the total amount raised over $25,000.

Scribner said that he knew about the pantry through the efforts of his father, Herbert Scribner, who volunteered there for many years.

Donations, some of them for as little as five dollars, have come from all over the community, including from those who the pantry helps to feed, said Louella Bickford, a volunteer with the pantry.

“These are people that don’t have it but they give anyhow,” she said.

Other donations have come in from students at Lawrence High School and from VFW Memorial Post 6924.

At the current site on Newhall Street, the operation spills out onto the lawn because there is not enough room in the building’s cramped rooms to dispense food. The pantry’s pastor gives advice to clients inside a bathroom, the only room available, and which is within earshot of the waiting room where other clients wait to be helped.

“We’re lucky to have it or I don’t know how we’d have been able to feed these people,” Bickford said, “but we need to have more privacy for the individual because a lot of them have hardships they don’t want everyone to know about.”

In addition, the men volunteers, most of whom Bickford said are at least 70 years old, lug bags and boxes of food from the interior of the building to the cars of the clients, sometimes in the rain or snow.

Pantry records show it has fed individuals more than 68,000 times since it opened in 1993.

In late February, the pantry began an active fundraising campaign to take advantage of an opportunity in the form of a small warehouse behind the town office, which was donated for the pantry’s use.

The new location has the space, but it needs work in order to fulfill the needs of the pantry.

“Right now, it’s just the shell of a building,” Bickford said.

While plans have not been finalized, pantry leaders have estimated they need roughly $100,000 to fully equip the building, beginning with basic needs like water and heat, significant roof repairs, and windows. Bickford said volunteers hope to install a conveyor belt and a dumbwaiter that would allow the food to be transported around the building, and coolers to store the food. Rather than having volunteers carry the food in bags, shopping carts would be purchased to make things easier.

The new building would also have rooms that would help to protect the privacy of clients, both during counseling and while being processed.

If all goes smoothly, she said, the building could be made weathertight and functional this year.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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