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Paynesville Press - October 26, 2005

New Community Service Center to open

By Michael Jacobson

An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony have been scheduled for the new Paynesville Area Community Service Center on Saturday, Oct. 29. The open house will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 noon with the ribbon-cutting ceremony starting at 10 a.m.

food Construction of the 3,440-sq.-ft. building, on the corner of Lake Avenue and Railroad Street near downtown Paynesville, began this summer. The new building will be used for the first time for distribution on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

The new Paynesville Area Community Service Center is located at the corner of Lake Avenue and Railroad Street near downtown Paynesville.

"I'm so excited," said Ruth Aulick, the founder of the Paynesville Area Community Service Center, about the new building. "You'd never believe that a community this size would have a new facility."

The project has been in the works for nearly three years. Originally, the Community Service Center asked for funds from the Paynesville Lions Club to help repair a sewer line. The Lions finance committee sent Joe Voss, a plumber to investigate. He found that the center had been running without a bathroom for six to eight months.

The conditions prompted Voss to suggest a new facility for the foodshelf to the Lions as a major project. "It was a longshot when we started because we didn't know how much it would cost or who would support us," said Voss.

The Paynesville Lions Club did the fundraising for the new $100,000 building starting in January 2003. They raised $60,000 in local donations from individuals, businesses, Lions Clubs (including $11,000 from the local Lions), and from churches.

stocking goods Last summer, the project received a $40,000 grant from Lions Club International Foundation, helping it reach the $100,000 goal. Construction of the new building began in August.

Volunteer Brad Kuhl stocks the food shelves at the new Paynesville Area Community Service Center on Saturday afternoon.

Around $10,000 - for a stainless steel food table, a stainless steel sink, a floor scale, additional shelving, and blacktop - is still needed to complete the project. These items will be purchased for the new building, but without additional donations they will mean debt for the Community Service Center. Donations can still be sent to: P.O. Box 194, Paynesville, MN 56362.

The new building will have a lot of additional features, said director Pam Williquette:

*It will be handicap accessible;

*It will be located on a single floor, eliminating the need to climb stairs to the five upstairs room at the current center, a former house on River Street;

*It will have a waiting area for clients, which should enhance confidentiality;

*It will have off-street parking, which should be safer and help confedentiality;

*It will have more room for household items, for seasonal items, and in the coolers;

*It will have a special room to repackage food, something that could not be done before; *It will have a floorscale onto which volunteers can easily roll shopping carts to measure the amount of food.

"It's actually nicer than I thought it'd be," said Voss.

Several of the new features will mean operational savings for the Community Service Center, said board member Margaret Spanier. This means that more of future donations can go to client needs rather than for infrastructure.

unloading truck For instance, the new building is ten times more insulated, so the center's utility costs should be reduced. The old coolers were inefficient and costly to repair, and the new coolers are bigger (10' by 10' instead of 6' by 8'). And breaking down bulk foods into smaller portions should provide big savings to the center by buying bulk.

Pastor Jeff Bergman unloads a pickup full of food at the new Community Service Center on Wednesday, Oct. 19, with the help of, from left, John Buerman, Reno Nichols, and Hunter Voss.

The off-street parking should be safer and more confidential. "When you have little kids and you're carrying groceries, you can't take an arm and those trucks can't stop," said Spanier of their former location on River Street, which had lots of truck traffic. "I'm amazed we never had an accident."

The new center will have the same hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, except on the fourth Wednesday of each month when they are open from 2 to 6 p.m., said Williquette. The center could expand its hours if it has more volunteer help, said Williquette.

Dropoffs will be done on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Donors should call ahead to the center at 320-243-4953.

The Paynesville Area Community Service Center, founded in 1965 (see related history story), still will provide food, clothing, and household items to people and families in need. All household items will now be located in one room, instead of upstairs at the old center, said Williquette, though furniture will still be located in the garage. They do have a need for dressers.

"When someone moves into a house with nothing, they need everything," said Williquette.

The center serves approximately 45 familes (130 people) per month.

Clients have a variety of situations, said Williquette, but all have a need. "They're no different than anybody else," she said.

"Except for a little more stress," said Spanier.

One goal of confidentiality is to make sure that everyone who has a need gets help from the center. Clients need "hope and dignity" as well as food and clothing, according to Spanier.

A new building should send a message to the clients that Paynesville cares about them, agreed Williquette and Spanier. "I think it says a lot if we're willing to care for the needy," said Spanier. "What a great community. The outporing from the community has been just unbelievable. People have been so generous. I just hope it continues, so we can finish it."

At least 50 people have volunteered during construction of the new building and moving the inventory to the new center, which was done last week. Voss and former Lions president Mutschelknaus, now a member of the board of directors for the center, also deserve special thanks for getting the project accomplished, said Williquette and Spanier. In all, 18 businesses contributed directly during construction, and the new building was paid through donations by dozens of business, organizations, and individuals.

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