Help in moving pantry, spiffing center
Smooth transition reported for emergency-food facility
The new site is a former classroom in the Buena Vista school building - now part of the Westside Community Center - at 1628 W. Bijou St.
Providing bags of food to needy individuals or families during the four hours it's open each week, the pantry had been in the basement of Bethany Baptist Church, about three blocks away.
The pantry was relocated Saturday, April 17, with the help of Air Force Academy cadets who needed to gain community service hours. According to Westside CARES Executive Director Stephen Brown, the cadets transferred about 5,000 pounds of food, as well as five freezers, one refrigerator and eight shelving units.
“They were very helpful and eager young folks,” Brown said, adding with a laugh, “even if they did put the peanut butter in the wrong place.”
As for the first day at the new location, he said that everything went smoothly. No clients were known to have gotten lost, and the church volunteers staffing the pantry were pleased with the larger space and ground-floor location, Brown said.
The main reasons for the move were to improve accessibility and to be part of a collaborative situation at the new Westside Center, in conjunction with the Billie Spielman Center (which gives pantry food vouchers to needy families) and the Woodmen Valley Chapel (which has formed a limited liability corporation to take over the center and put a focus on helping needy families).
Westside CARES, a consortium of more than 20 churches, has assisted the area's needy for 26 years, with the pantry located in the Bethany Baptist Church basement since 1993, according to Brown. The other Westside CARES services, including financial and medical assistance, will continue to operate from that location.
The Air Force cadets - there were about 50 in all - also helped with other chores at the center April 17. These included raking, general cleanup and relocating the former teen room (with all its furniture) that was in the middle building up the stairs to the second floor. The latter effort will give the teens more space, explained Dick Siever, who will become the Westside Center director once a contract is finalized between Woodmen's LLC and the Colorado Springs Parks Department.
A start was also made on relocating outside tables (to make room for a parking lot) and giving new use to an old baseball backstop (it will be re-erected as a buffer between the existing outdoor basketball court and parking lot).
“We were just amazed at the work the cadets did, a lot of it outside in the rain,” Siever said. “The work we thought would take them four hours, they completed in two. They were just unbelievable.”
Siever, who had organized the cadet involvement, said he hopes to get another volunteer team in place soon to finish the work on the backstop and tables.
Westside Pioneer article