Milton Community Food Pantry is heading into its sixth year, but this year is different because the pantry plans to expand to a new building.
The pantry’s leadership is exploring a move from its current home in Goshen Hall on Federal Street to a new location with permanent on-site storage.
Board President Donna Murawski said, “The church has been very good to us, and we’re appreciative of everything they’ve done. But we are outgrowing it.”
Pantry board member Tom DiOrio said when the pantry started, it served nine people. Last year, it served 14,590 people.
Ken Sosne, pantry development advisor, said the need continues to grow.
”Five months ago we were serving 60 to 65 clients a week,” he said. “Today we’re up to a little over 70 and sometimes up to 100 clients. We don’t have enough capacity to service the clients.”
“We’re increasing our volume by 12 to 14 percent per year,” DiOrio said.
At any one time, Sosne said, the pantry has more than 100 cases of food. Since the hall is owned and operated by Goshen United Methodist Church, it holds events at the Federal Street building and to make room, the pantry has to move all of its frozen and dry goods out. Sosne said volunteers store food in their garages or in their home freezers and then bring it all over. The pantry operates on Mondays from 10 a.m. to noon, packaging three days of meals for needy clients, not just in Milton but also in Harbeson, Slaughter Beach and Ellendale. While there are pantries in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, Milton’s pantry is the only one in northeast Sussex County.
The pantry would like to find space in downtown Milton that is larger than the 2,000-square-foot Goshen Hall. Many clients do not have cars, so they walk, bike or rideshare, making a centralized location key.
Sosne said traffic flow at the hall is also a concern as the parking lot is small, and street parking is limited given the number of people who come to the pantry each Monday.
“We need a good egress and exit point, as well as the storage,” he said.
In addition, Sosne said the current setup prevents the pantry from participating in state programs because it does not have a walk-in freezer.
“We’re servicing our clients well, but we could do better if we had the space,” he said.
DiOrio said the pantry has established a building fund, but it will take at least a year to meet the cost of renting or building a new building. Sosne said the pantry has looked at commercial space around Milton, but those spaces have been scooped up quickly. Ideally, the pantry would want space for a kitchen, food storage capacity and enough space for a freezer.
Sosne said the pantry has received a $25,000 grant from the Matt Haley Trust that will provide food for 2020. One of the first donors was Milton Theatre, which in November donated $500 raised during this year’s Zombie Fest.
Theater spokesman JP Lacap said, “We were very happy to have chosen them. They’re doing an exceptional job here.”
Sosne said the pantry has also received a $3,000 grant from the county and $1,000 from SoDel Cares, the charity arm of SoDel Concepts. He said the pantry hopes to pay operating expenses using grants so unrestricted money can then go into a capital fund for a new facility. The capital fund is already at $10,000, he said.
Murawski and DiOrio said they hope to find a new facility in 2021.
“We’re not being naive. We know even if we have a building, we’re going to have to support that building,” Murawski said.
The pantry is a member of the United Way and is now a 501(c)3 nonprofit operating weekly, year-round. It runs entirely on food and monetary donations. Those wishing to donate can do so to Milton Community Food Pantry, P.O.Box 84, Milton, DE. 19968. Those seeking to donate food or volunteer can call 302-278-9557 or email email@example.com.