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East Stokes Outreach dedicates new building

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Food waits behind a ribbon at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new East Stokes Outreach Ministry food bank on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 in Walnut Cove, N.C. (Andrew Dye/Journal)

WALNUT COVE, N.C. — Marchelle Brown shed tears of joy as people walked into the new East Stokes Outreach Ministry food pantry and office Wednesday, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Two and a half years ago, Brown, the executive director of the ministry, was crying for a different reason.

The floors were falling in at the outreach’s 75-year-old building. That building had to be torn down.

But on Wednesday, the ministry held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new 3,000-square-foot building at 301 W. Third St.

It sits on the same lot as the original pantry building but offers more space, including an additional room to interview clients and space for them all to sit inside.

The building connects to the ministry’s thrift store, which generates income to help keep the ministry going.

“How far the Lord has brought us,” Brown said from her new office, which actually has a door.

Brown spent the past few years operating out of rented space with her team of volunteers. The space was a blessing, but things were so packed that they had to take doors off the hinges to make use of every inch of the building, and food lined the hallways.

“I’m just overwhelmed with thankfulness,” Brown said. “What a day for the community.”

The new building will not officially open until Monday, but even during the open house Wednesday a few people stopped by to drop off donations or ask for help.

The ministry broke ground on the new building last November. Marty Mitchell, chairman of the building committee, said they had hoped to have the building completed by April but were delayed because of the weather.

Jerry Moorefield, a local engineer, donated his services to make the project possible. James T. Matthews, the general contractor, constructed the facility at an affordable price.

“We had very good people working on the project,” Mitchell said.

The project cost about $250,000, and the ministry has paid for much of it through grants, fundraisers and donations. It still needs about $50,000 and is hoping people will continue to donate.

“Grants and donations got us to where we are today,” Mitchell said.

The ministry operates on a tight budget, with only a few paid employees and 135 volunteers.

Jayson Duncan, chairman of the outreach’s board of directors, said the oldest volunteer is in her 90s, and the youngest volunteers are from a prekindergarten group.

Duncan said this marks the ministry’s 25th year of service in the community.

“The idea came from a group of concerned citizens who were concerned about the health and the welfare of the residents of our community,” Duncan said during the ceremony.

East Stokes Outreach Ministry, one of only three major food pantries and outreach facilities in Stokes County, serves about 950 needy residents a month on the eastern side of the county.

“And we continue to get new clients every month,” she said.

The food pantry is open from 9-11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. The thrift store has extended hours.

Families or individuals can get a week’s worth of food and personal care items from the pantry six times a year. The elderly and disabled can get help once a month. Clients can also get clothes from the thrift store.

The agency also helps connect people to other services in the community and helps residents with electric bills when money is available.

With an additional 600 square feet in the new building, leaders hope to add community classes and nondenominational worship services.

Brown said the building gives them room to grow.

“It’s about the community,” Brown said. “The community did this.”