Second Harvest of South Georgia reached a long-awaited milestone with Wednesday’s grand opening of its regional distribution facility at 120 Roseway Drive.
USDA representatives joined elected officials and supporters to celebrate the occasion.
Eliza R. McCall, chief marketing officer of Second Harvest of South Georgia, welcomed everyone to the event.
“We’d like to thank you for coming to commemorate this milestone in the organization’s history with us today. There has been a strong community support during this project,” she said.
Construction work on the newest base in the fight against hunger in south Georgia last September. The 65,000 square foot building includes a dry warehouse, cooler/freezer/cold dock space, a Kids Cafe Kitchen and administrative spaces. It also features an indoor/outdoor marketplace, allowing for more partnership to “shop” in a more customer-friendly space. Another aspect of the new facility is volunteer training and work spaces, along with a multi-purpose room that will be open for use by various community organizations.
Dr. Chet Ballard, board chair of Second Harvest of South Georgia, said the new facility will be a “game changer” for feeding the hungry people of the area.
He said, “This building isn’t the reason we are here today. It’s about feeding people and giving nourishment to bodies so that people can be the best they can be. This building is a symbol of that.”
“We are going to distribute so much food, it’s going to be a powerhouse,” he added.
The facility will have numerous benefits, including making it possible to feed more kids through the Kids’ Cafe program; provide fresher, better products; distribute more food; serve a larger number of partner agencies; and collect more unused fruits and vegetables throughout the region, keeping them from being discarded. The warehouse will be able to hold up to 3 million pounds of food. The rest of the storage will have a capacity of up to 1.4 million pounds.
The commercial kitchen is equipped to produce up to 10,000 meals per day. The facility will have 5 million pounds of food for south Georgia residents at full storage capacity. In the past, Second Harvest’s service area only included as far as Valdosta and Albany. Now service can be pushed as far as the Alabama line.
Franklin J. Richards, II, CEO of Second Harvest of South Georgia, said projects like the one in Thomasville are needed to change poverty in communities. He said it will also take Second Harvest to the “next level” of fulfilling the needs of the hungry.
He said, “We told you we were going to make it happen and we did. It’s been a long process and God knew when it needed to happen. Projects like this can make a major shift. It is the most innovative distribution center that has taken over 20 years in the making. Thomasville made it possible.”
USDA Rural Development awarded Second Harvest $5.2 million in Community Facilities loans to build the Thomasville facility.
Twenty-three of the counties in Second Harvest of South Georgia’s service area are low-income areas that USDA has targeted for extra resources and aid through the StrikeForce initiative, which was launched in 2010 to reduce poverty by increasing investments in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups that are working to combat poverty.
“This project will significantly help south Georgia communities with the greatest needs,” said Rich Davis, USDA deputy administrator for community programs. “I am proud to highlight this facility as another example of how financing from Rural Development’s Community Facilities program helps rural residents get access to essential goods and services.”
Second Harvest of South Georgia is a Valdosta-based non-profit organization that serves a 30-county region. It has branches in Albany, Douglas and Thomasville. Second Harvest and its network of more that 400 partner agencies distribute more than 18.5 million pounds of food a year to needy families, children and seniors through a variety of programs, including the Food Bank, Kids Cafe, Mobile Food Pantry, Farm to Family and Teachers Harvest.
Danny Dukes, Thomasville Branch director, was touched by the amount of support and generosity of the community and agencies.
He said, “Second Harvest has touched my life. I would tell everyone my story and most everyone thought it was a good idea. Various organizations got behind us and helped us to get to where we are today.”
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.