by Caitlin Thornbrugh
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — At 6 p.m. on Aug. 14, approximately 80 people gathered in a former dog food supply warehouse to celebrate a joyful grand opening.
Located at 1708 Steele Road in Kansas City, Kansas, the new Hope Distribution Center will now serve as the central location for food distribution to the nine food pantries and 21 counties served by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
The building, previously owned by community members Janet and Robert Dressler, was for sale for two years before Catholic Charities acquired it. Very few interested buyers looked at it, and at one point it almost became an antique car garage.
However, the space has now undergone an extensive makeover and is full of food and materials to serve people in need.
Juice boxes, cans of light tuna, long grain rice, saltine crackers, doughnut mix, northern beans, boxes of Cheerios, and bags of dry pasta line the shelves.
Amid the food shelves, a ribbon- cutting ceremony took place, including speeches from Ken Williams, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas; Valerie Nicholson-Watson, president and CEO of Harvesters; and Mayor/CEO Mark Holland of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann also said a few words and blessed the new center.
Williams compared his short speech to those at the Academy Awards, as he went down his list of all the people who deserved thanks for helping make the center a reality. In addition to those he mentioned by name, Williams also thanked the 130 volunteers that gave over 600 hours of service to renovate the building.
“If my math is right, that’s about $13,000 worth of labor. And, if my math is right, they ate 54 pizzas,” said Williams, to laughter from the crowd.
“We still came out ahead on that deal. So thanks to all the volunteers for all the work you did,” he said.
Williams went on to speak about the new center, explaining that the pantry will operate a little differently than traditional services do. When individuals arrive at the pantry, they grab a shopping cart, just as they would in a grocery store. They then can go up and down the aisles of goods, able to choose what they like, and what best serves their families.
“When you talk about dignity, being able to have a cart to push through the aisles and select what you want — I mean, that’s hope. That inspires hope,” said Nicholson-Watson.
The president and CEO of Harvesters was also enthusiastic about the collaboration that led to the installment of two new bus stops near the center.
“I’m also so encouraged for Ken [Williams] to be able to pick up the phone and call the esteemed mayor, and get two bus stops, so that people who don’t have transportation can get here,” said Nicholson-Watson. “I mean that’s community. That is community working together for good.”
Holland was impressed with the faith community’s continued dedication to fighting for an end to food insecurity.
“My experience with places like this is that they don’t tend to make money. They tend to cost money,” said Holland. “It doesn’t make business sense if you’re trying to build a business, but it makes good faith sense.”
Harvesters, local government, Catholic Charities, and individual citizens all worked together to make the center a possibility.
“I’m very grateful for the partnership coming from all sectors of our metropolitan area to serve those in greatest need,” said Holland.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann also applauded the teamwork.
“I’ve been in Kansas City over 10 years, and one of the things that’s always impressed me is the partnerships that go across denominational lines, that go across geographic lines, that go across ethnic lines,” he said. “And I see that very much here.”
With smiles spreading throughout the room, a countdown commenced to cut the ceremonial bright, red ribbon. Earning the biggest laugh of the night was the fact that it took two attempts to actually cut the ribbon, officially opening the new Hope Distribution Center.
How you can help
Donations to the new Hope Distribution Center can be dropped off between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment. For information on volunteer opportunities, call (913) 433-2080.