BY STUART WILSON
The FAITH (Feed And Instruct The Hungry) Neighborhood Center (FNC) opened the doors of its new operating location on the first business day of 2017.  Since then, it has been all business. Like the movie said, “Build it and they will come.” That has been true for the staff and volunteers at the FNC.
The FNC Board of Directors and the FNC staff announced a Grand Opening ceremony at 10 am on February 23 at their new home, 14727 Timber Village Road, Groveland. They are anxious to show off the facility to the community, local leaders, and the donors who were key in making the new center a reality.

The increased operating space from 2,500 to 6,000 sq. ft. has provided a user-friendlier operating environment for both clients and staff. The modern, open, store-like feel of the center has been well received by clients. “Some of our clients actually had tears in their eyes as they walked through the orderly racks of clothes,” noted one volunteer. Gone are the piles of clothes on tables that clients used to rummage through and compete with each other for items. One client was overheard saying, “It’s like going to a store. You don’t have to fight each other for things.”

“January was a busy and exciting time for us,” said Trish Kry, Executive Director of the FNC. She added, “With each passing day, we were breaking our records and learning lessons…and so it continues.” The center staff have been very busy putting finishing touches on the center as they make it their home as well as developing new operating procedures to improve service delivery and make the most of the new operating space.

The numbers for January 2017 tell the story of the center’s potential when compared with those of January 2016. For example, the number of families helped in January surged from 435 to 754; the amount of food disbursed climbed dramatically from 29,574 pounds to over 49,200 pounds.  “To meet this increased demand, we’ll have to get more volunteers and more operating and food-buying dollars,” said Kry.
Volunteers are vital to the FNC. The come to center for a variety of reasons. For example, they say, “Being here at FNC is my way of paying forward for kindnesses I received in the past.” Or, “I am here, because nobody should ever go hungry.” Or, “It is nice to be in a place where our clients can walk in with their heads held high.”

The FNC is organizing volunteer drives to be able to support the increased number of clients. The center is very proud their volunteer operating model has helped to keep overhead operating costs low, so that they can get more bang for each donated dollar. Volunteers are involved in almost every facet of center operations. Kry is very proud to say, “One of the immediate uses for our training space is to implement a formal volunteer training and development program.

The FNC is proud of the dedicated training space at its new location. They plan to offer training programs in areas such as budgeting, computer training, effective job searching, English as a second language, good nutrition, and healthy habits.  They intend to leverage their volunteer pool to implement these programs
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With regard to the need for more operating funds, Kry said, “We will be developing a more formal and intentional fundraising effort that shows we deliver efficient, high quality service to low-income families in south Lake County.” Kry and her team are dedicated to making the best use of monies from people who have said, “I have been blessed and the right thing for me to do is to help others.” To that end, the center has developed a fundraising theme called the “Power of 10.” Kry explained it this way, “With $10, we can feed a family of four, three meals a day for four days.” In order to do so, the center’s operations staff make sure they work closely with key stakeholders like Second Harvest, The United Way, and the Community Foundation of South Lake to make sure the center gets most out every operating dollar.

The FNC is looking forward to an exciting year ahead. Learn more about the FAITH Neighborhood Center, whether to volunteer, to donate, or to learn how to access its services by clicking on www.faithneighborhoodcenter.com or calling 352-429-1200.