St. Matthew's Episcopal Church is being transformed into a dedicated food bank, courtesy of about 100 volunteers honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy.
"It’s a great use of space and we’re doing something more for the people that really need it," said volunteer Jasmine Hassandeh.
Heading up many of the work teams were young men and women with Americorps. Kaiser Permanente employees took part in their company-wide Day of Service in tribute to the civil rights icon.
"This is a great opportunity to come out here and do something good and give back to the community," Hassandeh said.
River City Food Bank says a growing refugee population and lower rental prices have contributed to the fact that 25 percent of people living in Arden-Arcade area live in poverty. Being able to afford their food is just half the battle.
"In this particular neighborhood it’s a food desert, so they can’t walk to get fresh fruits and vegetables," said Eileen Thomas, director of the River City Food Bank. "So, we really are trying to fill that need here."
The backstory to the project is almost as compelling as the work itself and falls right in line with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day spirit of service. Over the years St. Matthew's congregation has dwindled, to the point where the parishioners thought they could put their building to better use and invited the food bank to take over.
"I think they saw that a large building like this maybe no longer met their needs but met the needs of their community," Thomas said.
Thomas told FOX40 converting a church into a food bank taken more work than she’d imagined. Mostly because they’re not just stocking shelves, but essentially creating a community center. Ideally they can ease the potentially humbling and intimidating experience of visiting a food bank.
"That’s one of our core values, as we distribute food we also do it in a way that shows compassion, dignity and respect," Thomas said.
The food bank is currently open Saturdays at the old St. Matthew's Episcopal Church on 28th Street, in addition to the Monday through Friday hours at the main midtown campus.