By Kellen M. Quigley
A new place for area residents in need of a little extra food at the end of the month could soon be coming to the town of Great Valley.
At its Monday meeting, the Great Valley Town Board approved a request by representatives from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Ellicottville to pursue setting up a community food pantry in the town hall.
“If there’s a need, we can fill the need,” said Town Supervisor Dan Brown.
Although initiated by members of the church, the food pantry would be a community endeavor sponsored by any entities who wished to support it, explained Connie Hellwig.
Hellwig spoke on behalf of church member Josh Bower who originally proposed the idea to Great Valley. Bower was unable to attend the board meeting.
“We feel a call to serve those outside of the church community that are in need, and we feel that we can fulfill this and implement this,” Hellwig said. “We have the means, we just need the location to actually have it done.”
The town hall was considered as a site because of its location on a main highway, its central location in the town, its closeness to the Green Valley Estates and the easy access and large parking area, Hellwig said.
“We’ve been discussing an outreach food pantry at St. Paul’s at the council for some time now,” she said. “It’s not a church food pantry, it’s a community food pantry… We know there is a need in this area.”
Depending on scheduling, the pantry could tentatively run during the last two Saturdays of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hellwig said people would have to sign up through the food bank to be eligible.
“It does supply a lot of people in need, and the guidelines are pretty generous, too,” she said. “People from other towns could come here, too. They just need to fill out the paperwork.”
One of the key demographics for those who could use the pantry are families with children. Hellwig said most of the students who attend Ellicottville schools live in Great Valley or Humphrey, and during the summer some kids wouldn’t get a regular lunch as they do in school.
“Plus, you have the summer youth program, and you might have eligible families there,” she added.
Board member Sandra Goode asked if St. Paul’s had approached any other churches in Great Valley to either sponsor the pantry or hold it at their site. Hellwig said they only approached the town and they may reach out to the other churches for support once the site is open.
“It’s not a church activity. It’s a community activity where we would be looking for partnerships,” she said.
Board member Jerry Musall asked about storage for the food, specifically if the town would have space. Hellwig said families would come to get a milk crate’s worth of food with several nonperishables, so large storage isn’t necessary.
In the town hall, there is enough kitchen space to store the food in locked cupboards, as well as space for a second small storage unit, Town Clerk Toni Evans said.
Hellwig said one earlier idea was to deliver food from the pantry in Ellicottville to those in the Great Valley area, but the Western New York Food Bank, who sponsors the pantry, doesn’t allow deliveries.
Sponsorship for the food pantry in Great Valley by the Western New York Food Bank could happen later on, but the pantry first needs to show there is a need in the area for six months. Then, Hellwig explained, the pantry could provide both food and amenities, such as a cooler.
“We can’t bring in a semi, but for the community, the size of the spot, everything is custom made,” she said.
Another of the town’s concerns was scheduling around rental of the town hall for events, such as if there need to be decorations set up Friday night or Saturday morning. Hellwig said they would be flexible and work around whatever else is happening at the town hall.
“As long as it doesn’t interfere with renting out the hall, I’m all for it,” Brown said.