A new event benefiting the Richmond Area Food Pantry comes at a pivotal time, as the food pantry prepares to move into a new space.

The inaugural Richmond Fine Arts and Crafts Fair, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Marcia Buker Elementary School, will raise money and collect donations of food for the food pantry.

Organizer Lisa Gilman, an artist and art teacher who lives in Richmond, said she came to understand how necessary the food pantry is after she had to go there when her husband was unemployed for three years. Gilman is in a better situation now that her husband has a full-time job, but she remembers how many other people she saw seeking assistance.

“You don’t realize how much of a need there is until you’re on the other side,” she said. “I didn’t realize that there were so many people that used the food pantry, how many kids it supported, how many elderly people used that food pantry.”

The $30 table fee paid by each artist at the show will go to the food pantry, and there will also be a 50-50 raffle benefiting the food pantry. In addition, people attending the show are encouraged to bring a canned food item to donate.

Janette Sweem, chairwoman of the food pantry, said they can use all the support they can get. The food pantry helps 100 households each month but has only five regular individual donors.

In addition to food and monetary donations, the food pantry’s leaders are looking for local contractors to donate services and materials to prepare their new space in the former St. Matthias Episcopal Church, which closed last year because the congregation was dwindling.

The diocese gave the property to the town, saying it wanted it to continue to benefit the community. A new home for the food pantry was mentioned as a possible use.

The town will lease the 1,340-square foot main building to the food pantry and take care of the heat and landscaping, while the food pantry will pay for the other utilities.

Since 2011, the food pantry has operated at the Dresden-Richmond United Methodist Church. Sweem said the church has been a good host, but its own needs meant the food pantry could not have a space of its own.

“So every time we had a pantry, we had to set it up, break it all down, make like we weren’t there at all,” Sweem said. “It’s very time-consuming and labor-intensive. When we move over to the next church, we won’t have to break down. It will be just us.”

The pews have been removed from the St. Matthias building, and Sweem said she received the keys just in the past week. The food pantry’s leaders hope to add a bathroom, get water and sewer lines installed and upgrade the electrical system to run freezers.

Sweem said they hope to have the new space ready by the first Wednesday in December.

The Richmond Area Food Pantry distributes food from 4 to 6 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month and from 2 to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645[email protected]Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan

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