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Santa Rosa food pantry finds new home

  • Volunteers Jerry Gulick, Ed Sutter and Nicole Hansen sort food at the F.I.S.H. food pantry in 2009. (PD FILE, 2009)

The Santa Rosa food pantry forced out of its long-time home in a city building has found a new location north of Coddingtown and plans to reopen Monday after a busy weekend move.

F.I.S.H.’s new office and distribution center is at 2900 McBride Lane, just south of the Redwood Credit Union headquarters.

The 1,400-foot space has plenty of parking and is near public transportation, said Dennis Hansen, the group’s deputy director.

“There’s relief that we were able to find a place and continue to operate for the next three years,” Hansen said. “It’s a godsend.”

The chief downside is that it will require the all-volunteer organization to pay rent, Hansen said. The group had been operating rent-free out of a former fire station on Benton Street since 1995.

Facing expensive accessibility and other upgrades, the city chose to evict F.I.S.H. instead instead of invest in the aging building, and will likely sell it. The group has been given multiple extensions to find a new home.

The search for a new location was challenging, with the right combination of storage space and parking needs only materializing in recent weeks, Hansen said.

Former Santa Rosa Mayor Dave Berto owns the office complex. He had offered F.I.S.H. another space last year, but the organization didn’t have the funds at that point. When word of the group’s plight got out, it was able to raise about $40,000 for its move.

With a deadline to get out of the building by October looming, Berto and the group struck a deal for two 700-square-foot office spaces side-by-side, one for food storage, one for offices and distribution, Hansen said.

The $1,400 per month rent is discounted, but with utilities will still cost approximately $20,000 per year, Hansen estimates. While grateful to Berto, the group’s leaders have found it hard to spend money on rent for first time in the group’s 40-year history, Hansen said.

“We like the idea that everything we collect goes to buy food,” he said.

The group moved its stores of food on Saturday, hosted an open house for volunteers on Sunday, and expects to be open for business today, he said.

The all-volunteer operation handed out more than 580,000 pounds of food to nearly 64,000 people in 16,000 households last year.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.

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