Boxes of food began filling the long, empty shelves inside the new Bigfork Food Bank last week as a devoted team of volunteers prepared for the upcoming opening. The food — fresh garden produce, cans of soup and other basic items — piled high inside the building that, like the food, was made possible largely thanks to donations from the community. Outside, volunteer contractors from Ron Incoronato and Co. were finishing a large shed that will store donated firewood for anyone needing help staying warm this winter.
“We are so grateful to our community. Bigfork has got to be the best place to live,” Ann Tucker, director of the Bigfork Food Bank, said.
After years of planning and development, the new food bank is ready to serve. Three times as large as the former space next door on Montana Highway 35, the food bank will be able to provide meals and firewood to more people in need than anytime in its 25-year history.
The food bank will begin distributing items Sept. 22. A grand-opening ceremony will be held in October.
This year the Bigfork site is on pace to serve 496 people on average per month — roughly 100 families per month — and a total of 38 tons of food this year, more than last year, according to Tucker.
This growing need is what led to the fundraising efforts to build a new site with more room and adequate resources, including a large $20,000 walk-in freezer that was gifted by the Bigfork Community Development Foundation Trust. The new site will also have two bathrooms instead of one; a spacious donation area; and a waiting room where people can find information about job postings or upcoming events in the community. Another anonymous resident saw the need for free wood in the window and donated the supplies for the shed being built outside by Incoronato’s crew.
“It’s overwhelming. The support has been unbelievable,” Tucker said.
Roughly 75 percent of the funds needed to build the new site — roughly $200,000 — came from private donors, she said. The rest came from grants.
An additional $90,000 is still needed to finish fundraising efforts, and upcoming events are being finalized to rally support. One event, a garage sale that will include items from the old site is slated for Oct. 3 in front of the food bank.
The creation of the new site has fallen on the shoulders of 12 passionate staffers and other community members who work solely on a volunteer basis. Nobody is paid for his or her services.
“It’s such a heartwarming feeling to be able to help someone out,” Volunteer Carol Rockwell said.
“We get to meet a lot of wonderful people who come here,” Tucker added. “Circumstances have put them in a compromised situations and we’re just here to help.”
The Bigfork Food Bank is located at 7535 Highway 35 near Bigfork. Donations can be sent to PO Box 850. Food is distributed the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call 837-3179.
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