Big changes are being made at the First Baptist Food Closet in Columbus.
And the needy will benefit.
Don Hilton is director of the facility, which provides sustenance to the poor.
The facility is expected to be open again for business at its Third Avenue location March 13.
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Hilton has been a member of First Baptist Church since 1975. He moved into the director position in February.
“This is a really old building and it is well built but it was not laid out to be efficient,” he said of the brick structure. “Things are being streamlined to make us more efficient.”
The 45 feet by 25 feet structure where food can be stored and put into sacks for clients was added in July and now the main building is being renovated.
Church administrator Tim Thompson said the new building will ease the task for workers.
Instead of taking items from Feeding the Valley to a church-owned Sixth Avenue warehouse and then by truck to the distribution location, foot items are now brought directly to the food closet.
Thompson and Hilton are both thrilled with new refrigeration units that have been installed.
Offices are being changed to make them more inviting for people coming to get food at the facility.
“Interviews must be done to see if people qualify,” Hilton said.
He pointed to a 25-foot long table next to shelves loaded with food. Paper sacks were lined up on the table.
“Now a worker can just reach up, take a can off the shelf and place in a bag and move down the line. The way it will be set up, one person could load 50 sacks in an hour. In the past, it would take several workers going to various locations to get the job done,” Hilton said.
The food closet is only open Monday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
A family that qualifies may get food once every 60 days.
Hilton said around 7,500 people used the food closet in 2016, some multiple times. What goes in the sack is done according to USDA guidelines. Snack bags are prepared, too.
The Rev. Jimmy Elder, pastor at First Baptist Church of Columbus, said the food closet has been an important part of the church ministry for at least 30 years. He said in the 14 years he has been at First Baptist it has “played a vital part of who we are as a people.”
He said the food closet helps fulfill what has been the church’s mission since First Baptist was founded about 189 years ago and that is to invest in the community and “make life better for people in the community.”
Hilton said 47 people work at the food closet.
Elder said he is glad for the financial donations that church members make and the work of the staff.
“The food closet is manned by volunteers who selflessly give up their time to help others,” the pastor said. “The satisfaction we receive is knowing we are doing the best we can to do what Christ has taught us to do.”