North Valley Food Bank Holds Groundbreaking for New Facility

By Beacon Staff

The North Valley Food Bank has come a long way since 1977 when it started up in June Munski-Feenan’s garage, adapting and expanding along with the community it serves. Now it needs a new home, and it’s getting one that will make Munski-Feenan proud.

After moving out of Munski-Feenan’s garage in its infancy, the North Valley Food Bank has been in its current location on East First Street since 1985. While the facility has ably served the community, it is no longer large enough to accommodate the needs of a growing population base, even after multiple additions over the years.

The food bank purchased a piece of property at Baker Commons in the fall of 2011 and launched a fundraising campaign to build a new facility. In an illustration of the campaign’s success so far, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 10 at the Flathead Avenue site where the new distribution center will be built, near The Wave fitness center.

Munski-Feenan, the food bank’s 85-year-old founder, hopes to see the building finished this year. The 4,800-square-foot facility will be a substantial upgrade in terms of both space and amenities. She says Whitefish has treated so many people in its community so well, and she’s thankful to see attention turning to those in need.

“We’ve got everything for the rest of us – now it’s time to spend some money on the people who don’t have much,” Munski-Feenan said. “They’re probably not able to go to The Wave and or go ice skating because they can’t afford it. But they’ll have this.”

Demand for North Valley Food Bank’s services has grown steadily over the years. Last year the nonprofit distributed more than 343,000 pounds of food to over 7,000 families. It also provides school supplies such as backpacks and notebooks to local kids in need. When the cold months hit, the food bank hands out coats and gloves.

The output is impressive for an entirely volunteer-run operation, guided by Munski-Feenan and a board of directors made up of community members.

“These people work so diligently and so quietly at no recognition or reimbursement,” said Glacier Bank’s Whitefish branch president, Lin Akey, who has been active in fundraising. “It’s a remarkable group of people.”

But if the volunteers and enthusiasm are there, sufficient space is not. The current location at 311 East First St. is simply not big enough these days to accommodate the food bank’s storage and distribution needs. Lack of parking is a major concern as well.

Munski-Feenan said nearly $900,000 of the food bank’s $1.5 million goal had been raised as of last week. Construction is anticipated to cost about $1 million, with the remaining money going to an endowment fund. Fundraising efforts are ongoing and will continue during construction.

Munski-Feenan is excited to give the food bank that she started more than 35 years ago a home worthy of its mission.

“It will be a lot nicer for everybody,” she said. “It will be nice for Whitefish.”

For more information, including how to donate, visit www.northvalleyfoodbank.org.

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