Architectural renderings of the proposed Caring and Sharing Food Pantry building. Currently, the pantry as raised over 80 percent of the funds for the building. (Rendering/Courtesy of the Caring and Sharing Food Pantry)

PAULDING – After over forty years of serving the hungry of Paulding County, the Caring and Sharing Food Pantry is finally closing in on a home of its own.

The pantry purchased land on Walnut Street here in Paulding, and it plans on constructing a 3,900-square-foot building on the property. The new building will provide the pantry with a larger shopping area, a larger storeroom, a check-in area that will provide privacy to clients, a large overhead door and loading area to simplify receiving deliveries, and client enrichment space. In the future, the pantry plans on investing in a walk-in freezer.

Currently, the pantry rents space from the Carnegie Library of Paulding County, in an old doctor’s office next to the main branch. Before that, it operated in the basement of the rectory of what was St. Joseph Catholic Church.

According to the pantry’s executive director Jodi Schneider a building of its own has been in the works for quite some time, “The library is not pushing us out or anything, but we have grown to the point that we have outgrown the space.”

Preliminary quotes priced the new building cost at $525,000, but those costs likely went up with inflation.

St. Paul Lutheran Church in Paulding has partnered with the pantry on the building project, and after seeing numerous building projects put on hold during COVID, the church wanted to do something to get the new pantry “kicked into gear again,” said church member Sue Beck. “So, I kept thinking and thinking. I thought, why don’t we do a community concert.”

Beck, Laurie Barnes, who sits on the board of the pantry, Renee Boss and Cindy Kauser organized the concert for the first Sunday in April.

“We had a packed church. You probably couldn’t seat another dozen people,” added Beck. “It was just packed, and we had a wonderful turnout for people that volunteered to be in the program.”

Over thirty people joined the mass choir, and prior to the concert, a dessert bar offered the concertgoers treats to enjoy. “People just kept bringing desserts, and it was a really big hit,” said Beck.

Halfway through the planning, the committee got more good news. An anonymous donor pledged to match what was raised at the concert. Another major donor was the Paulding County Hospital. In the end, the concert raised $47,000 and with the matching donation, $94,000 was raised for the food bank’s new building.

“We were blown away; we just couldn’t believe it,” said Beck.

The event was so successful that organizers are holding it again this year, with the hopes it will move them across the finish line of their fundraising goal.

Currently, it’s raised $470,000 of the construction costs.

This year’s event will be held on Sunday, March 26, 2023. The open dessert bar and refreshments will begin at 4:30 p.m., with the concert following at 6 p.m.

“We’re opening [the mass choir] will be even bigger this year,” said Beck.

All the money raised at the community concert goes directly to the building fund. The committee also stresses that volunteers with the concert are important too.

“Singers are needed for the mass choir,” echoed Beck. “Anyone interested can contact any of us on the committee or even reach out to Jodi, and she will get the word to us.”

According to the pantry, it’s more important than ever they get the building constructed because after COVID saw a decline in the number of people using the pantry, it’s since seen an uptick in use. In 2021, the pantry served 1,055 families. In 2022, that number grew to 1745.

Residents and families below the 200th percentile of the poverty line are allowed to use the pantry twice a month, and they are given enough food to last three days per visit. The pantry is set up similarly to a grocery store, where they are allowed to pick out items.

Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, those families will be able to visit a new building the pantry can call its own.