In 13 years, the Cherry Hill Food Pantry has never had a home to call their own. If all goes to plan, that will soon change, with the pantry scheduled to close on a site located at 910 Beechwood Avenue in Cherry Hill within the next few weeks.
For Janet Giordano, the pantry’s executive director, purchasing their own space is “a dream come true.”
“It’s something I never thought would happen,” Giordano said. “This is just the most marvelous thing – to be masters of your own destiny.”
Back in April, Giordano learned that the pantry’s lease at their Brace Road location was not being renewed. Desperate to keep the nonprofit running, they made an appeal to the Cherry Hill community asking for help finding a place that could offer rent at a price the nonprofit could afford.
In July, the Rodi family responded to that plea and offered up a space at a discounted rent on Coles Avenue in Cherry Hill. But in August, Giordano received a letter from Joseph Rodi’s attorney in which she was informed that he no longer wanted to proceed with the transaction.
With the pantry’s lease due to expire on Nov. 1, the pantry’s board was back on the hunt for a space. They came upon the Beechwood location in October. Giordano said the site costs $350,000, and they were able to put 20 percent down as result of years of saving and fundraising.
She said that still leaves them $2,000 a month in mortgage payments, but when they did the math, it turned out that they’d have an easier time financing a monthly mortgage payment than trying to afford rent in the area. Giordano said her current landlord offered them an extension on their lease until Dec. 15 with the contingency that they wouldn’t ask for another extension.
In the interim, many members of the community have stood with the pantry throughout its search. In October, the Cherry Hill School District made the Cherry Hill Food Pantry the beneficiary of its Volley for Support event, donating $13,000 from the fundraiser to the nonprofit. The Cherry Hill Police Benevolent Association 176 also raised $2,500 for the pantry during its annual golf tournament fundraiser.
After months of uncertainty, according to Giordano, there was a palpable sense of relief when she shared the news that they’d found a permanent space for the clients they serve. The pantry had made a promise to its nearly 700 clients that they wouldn’t close down, but many expressed worries about what might happen if they didn’t find a new space. Giordano said there was a round of applause when they shared the good news.
“It was like we had lifted this burden off of them,” Giordano said.
The Beechwood location is a “clean building” in decent shape, according to Giordano, but there’s still some work they need to do to configure the space to meet their needs. The pantry’s Brace Road location is a space that mirrors a mini-supermarket with shopping carts, fully-stocked aisles and a line of refrigerators – all of which has to be transported to the new location.
The building has a handful of small offices inside, so some of the walls will need to come down to open up the space. Giordano said they also need to outfit the bathrooms to be ADA compliant. She said they’re in need of electricians and plumbers who’d be willing to donate their time to help them get the space ready.
She said once they close on the space, they’re hoping to have it up and running within six weeks. She said they’ll have to operate in more restricted capacity during that time, but they hope to have a quick turnaround to get them back to full capacity.
She said the move is going to be a “monumental” job, and so, if anyone in the community can donate funds or products, any bit of support helps.
“I just am hoping that the community can come through with all of these needs so we can continue to feed people,” Giordano said.
Anyone interested in learning more about how they can help during the move can contact the Cherry Hill Food Pantry via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate to the pantry’s relocation fund, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/cherry-hill-food-pantry-renovation-fund.