Former variety store in Guilford to be converted into food pantry

Al Hunt of Guilford shovels debris Thursday from the future home of the Partnership Food Pantry in Guilford.
Al Hunt of Guilford shovels debris Thursday from the future home of the Partnership Food Pantry in Guilford.
Posted Aug. 11, 2011, at 8:55 p.m.

GUILFORD, Maine — The Maine Department of Environment Protection is lending a hand to the Partnership Food Pantry to eliminate an environmental hazard on the site of its future home in Guilford.

Guilford Economic Partnership, doing business as the Partnership Food Pantry, recently purchased a former gasoline station-convenience store from the town, which acquired it for nonpayment of taxes. The town placed it up for sale by bid.

“We bid $2,500 and never imagined we’d be successful,” Al Hunt, the food pantry’s manager, said Thursday. Once the bid was accepted, the funds were quickly raised thanks to generous supporters, he noted.

Hunt said he was aware the building needed roof repairs, new wiring, and some interior renovations. He was a bit surprised, however, when he called the DEP to inquire about the removal of above-ground tanks on the property and learned that some underground pipes had to be removed.

When Hunt advised the DEP that his organization had no funds for the removal of the pipes, the agency was ready to help the nonprofit pantry. He said he learned a few weeks after the initial call that a Brownfields grant had been secured for the project. The DEP’s first site visit to the property will be on Aug. 23, he noted.

“The DEP has been extraordinarily friendly and helpful,” Hunt said. Not having to worry about the removal of the pipes will allow him to focus on the building’s problems, he said. Hunt figures it will take two years before the food pantry can be moved from its space in the former Guilford Primary School, which is owned by the town, to its new location. The move, he said, is to ensure sustainability.

“We’re having success, but when it’s self-sustaining, that is the real success,” Hunt said.

Toward that end, Hunt envisions using a concrete pad behind the building as the foundation for a greenhouse, where food can be grown to feed the hungry. The three large fuel bins on the foundation will eventually be sold for scrap metal.

When the building came on the market, Hunt felt it would be ideal for the food pantry, even through it needed repairs. “It was not as bad as I thought it was,” he said of the building’s condition. Plans are to renovate the front section of the building and eventually replace the back section with a metal dock-height structure.

The activity around the building in recent weeks has prompted a lot of curiosity and offers for help, according to Hunt. “A lot of people are pleased to see it coming back to life,” he said, as he shoveled debris from the ground and deposited it inside a barrel. A local carpenter has offered his time to help make roof repairs. Hunt hopes he can obtain some donated metal roofing for the job.

The pantry, which assists Guilford and Greenville residents in need, serves about 200 families, according to Hunt. From March 1 through May 31, the pantry distributed $75,000 worth of free food to the hungry. “Every dollar of food we put in the community is an economic stimulus,” he said.

The pantry will celebrate its fifth year in October, an event that would not have been possible were it not for the hard work and generosity of a lot of people, Hunt said.

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