VEAC breaks ground on new food pantry

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Event brings $30,000 in donations to Visalia Emergency Aid Council’s effort to raise $750,000

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

VISALIA – One year ago, Visalia’s food pantry kicked off their campaign to raise $750,000 for a new warehouse to store enough food to meet the growing demand of the city. On June 14, the Visalia Emergency Aid Council announced the project was just $22,000 short of that goal as they broke ground on a new 6,000 square foot warehouse at 217 NE 3rd Ave. just north of the Lincoln Oval Park.

“This is a new era for us,” said Liz Wynn, executive director of the Visalia Emergency Aid Council (VEAC). “This will finally give us room to store food for the 1,100 families we serve each month.”

In order to make way for the warehouse, VEAC demolished a 1,250-square foot office building and a 1,543-square foot house being used for storage. During construction, the food pantry is operating out of a 1,900-square foot adobe brick building at the northeast end of the property.

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The groundbreaking narrowed a significant portion of the funding gap after Wynn and VEAC Board president Brian Gilbert were presented with $30,000 in donations, each one larger than the last. San Joaquin Valley College kicked things off with a check for $5,000 and then Bank of America kicked it up a notch with a check for $10,000 until the Visalia Host Lions kicked it into high gear with a donation of $15,000, bringing the VEAC’s total to $728,000. To donate, visit www.veac.org.

“Our need is $750,000, but the support over the last year has been incredible and we are grateful to our community,” executive director Liz Wynn said. “This new pantry will replace the recently demolished pantry that had a leaky roof, inadequate storage space and no heating or air conditioning.”

Wynn said the facility dates back to 1931 when the VEAC was built on the former offices and personnel barracks for CalFire. Visalia’s population was just 7,300 and has grown to more than 130,000. Today, VEAC provides food for 1,100 families each month. For nearly 87 years, Visalia Emergency Aid Council has been providing food to families with children and seniors, working from an adobe brick and mortar building in north Visalia. That building today has a leaky roof, inadequate storage space, no heating or air conditioning and it doesn’t meet current building codes.

“This started four years ago when I walked onto this campus and I was, to say the least, underwhelmed,” Wynn said. “That’s when I knew I had been called to his business.”

A seven-foot tall wrought iron fence will be replace chain link fence with razor wire along Granite Street and NE 3rd Avenue to make the property more attractive and inviting but also to protect new landscaping from vandalism and nuisance. The entry gate will also be widened to make it easier for trucks delivering food to pull in and out. After construction of the warehouse, the parking lot will be expanded, new landscaping will be added and permanent sidewalks, ramps and driveways will be made wheelchair accessible.

“People in the neighborhood are exciting that we are reinvesting in the place we have called home for 50 years,” Wynn said. “We are also investing three-quarters of a million dollars into the property value of this neighborhood.”

Visalia Emergency Aid was founded in 1931 by a group of Visalia citizens concerned about the welfare of the many dust bowl immigrant families living in poverty on the outskirts of town. Today, the nonprofit organization serves over 2,000 children every month, along with seniors on fixed incomes. The mission is to help ensure that no one has to choose between paying rent or buying food, Wynn explained.

Wynn said the non-profit’s mission is to help ensure that no one has to choose between paying rent or buying food. The group partners with Family HealthCare Network in hosting Mobile food pantry in Goshen, assist families in crisis by providing free clothing to domestic violence victims with Family Services of Tulare County, support victims of crime through the Victims Witness Advocates at The Tulare County DA’s office, and help at risk outpatients through Kaweah Delta Health Care Bridge Program. Each month, they operate their pantry with a large number of volunteers supplied by Tulare County Welfare to Work program, AARP, Proteus and CSET.

Additionally, the VEAC has a thrift store located at 620 W. Houston Ave. in Visalia, which is a key funding source for the food pantry, special programs and administration. The thrift store offers affordable clothing, furniture, appliances and household and is open seven days a week. Donations are accept anytime Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or they offer free pick up for easier convenience.

For further information, call Wynn, 732-0101, or email [email protected]. 

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