BREWER, Maine — The closure a year ago of the Brewer Christian Food Cupboard, which served residents in the city and neighboring Eddington for three decades, left already struggling needy families who depended on the food pantry without a place in the city to turn.
Concern led to the creation of the Brewer Area Food Pantry Advisory Committee, led by OHI, a Hermon-based agency that supports adults with intellectual disabilities and mental illness who recently purchased the vacant Boomer Fitness building, located at 222 North Main St. for the food bank.
OHI Inc., which has offices at the Twin City Plaza, went before the Brewer Planning Board on Wednesday and received approval to renovate the former gym.
“The first floor is going to be a food cupboard,” Code Enforcement Officer Ben Breadmore said Thursday. “It’s on the bus route and it’s in the downtown. They’ve been looking for a place in the city for a while.”
Brenda Leavitt, OHI project manager, said in a recent email that, “We’ve had a name, logo, mission and vision for months. Finding a suitable location at a reasonable price was quite the challenge. Epstein Properties and the City of Brewer Economic Development Department were instrumental in the whole process.”
Now that the building has been purchased and the site plan approved, “now we can really start rolling,” she said.
OHI would like to open the Brewer Area Food Pantry by November. The site is just half a block away from where the local nonprofit social service organization opened its Chalila House in 2005 to provide housing for its eight homeless clients who struggle with both mental illness and homelessness. Tenants must have been homeless for two years, have a mental illness and qualify under Section 8 housing rules.
Brewer Christian Food Cupboard, which was started by Anne Piper and others in the basement of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, moved to a larger location three years ago and closed on Aug. 17, 2012, for financial reasons. The food bank served about 130 households, or about 350 people, each month when it closed.
Brewer Area Food Pantry Advisory Committee members have been out talking to those who made donations to the former food cupboard, but “unfortunately, we’re finding a number of area businesses redistributed their donations and giving after the closure,” Leavitt said. “We plan to leave no stone uncovered, though, particularly in Brewer.”
Manna Ministries, Inc., The Rock Church in Bangor, the Brewer Community Service Council and Camden National Bank in Brewer, who each have a representative on the committee, have all pledged to support the city’s new pantry.
“This was a natural fit for us,” Cynthia Bergin, Camden National Bank branch manager in Brewer, said in a press release issued when the building was purchased. “Whether through the in-kind donation of volunteer time or direct financial support, our giving is based on the belief that our vitality as a community bank depends on the well-being of the towns where we live and work. Additionally, our giving priority for 2013 centers on fighting hunger and this initiative helps us to continue those efforts in Brewer.”
Those interested in learning more about the Brewer Area Food Pantry can call Brenda Leavitt at 848-5804, Ext. 1208, or by email at email@example.com.