CENTERBURG — If all goes as planned, the Centerburg branch of Interchurch Social Services will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year in a new building.

ISS Executive Director Carolyn Fergus, along with board president Kasie Alexander and strategic planning chair the Rev. Mearle Griffith, discussed the building project at a community meeting Thursday night in the Fuller Center.

Griffith said that shortly after becoming involved with ISS in 2018, he began evaluating the buildings that housed the ISS branches.

“I came to Centerburg and noticed the steps to go inside. I noticed how small it was. I noticed how many items there were,” he said. “It seemed clear to me that the first thing we have to tackle is getting a bigger space. It took longer than I thought it would.”

Plans for the new building are still preliminary, but ISS has contracted with an architect. Griffith expects to have drawings in about six weeks.

What is anticipated, however, is that the thrift store area will be twice as large as the current space, there will be a covered space for donation drop-offs, a sorting room, and a washer and dryer. There is room for the food pantry, a break room, bathroom, and offices.

The front entrance will still be on Clayton Street.

“The one big difference you are going to see is everything will be at street level,” Fergus said. “We potentially are looking at loft storage for seasonal stuff like Christmas. We’d like to be able to keep it here and rotate it into the store.

“We want your input,” she told the group. “There’s nothing set in stone yet.”

Griffith said cost estimates range from $380,000 to $600,000.

“We are working on getting funding sources, so we think with maybe $100,000 to $150,000 more, we can build a $450,000 to $500,000 building,” he said. “We’re hoping some of that can be raised here in Centerburg.”

A building fund has been established at Park National Bank in Centerburg for those wishing to make a donation.

Griffith said that one of the contractors, if he should submit the lowest bid, said it would take 90 days to build the new building and ISS staff could be in it this fall. The current building will be demolished.

Mearle Griffith

Fergus said ISS is looking for space to have the thrift store and pantry operational during demolition and construction.

“An absolute minimum is to have space for our food pantry. People have to have food,” she said.

Additionally, ISS is looking for space to store clothing racks and other supplies during the transition.

Fergus said that the ISS board explored the idea of saving and restoring the current building, but there were too many things wrong with it.

ISS is a faith-based ministry uniting community resources for those in need. In addition to the Centerburg branch, which was established in 1984, it has three other locations: Mount Vernon (1984), Fredericktown (1991), and Danville (1995).

“I have been doing this kind of work for 50 years, and I don’t know of another county that has this kind of service organization,” Griffith said of ISS.

“The Centerburg branch is a key branch of our network. We do many things,” Alexander said.

Those many things include serving 42 families, 104 people, and 936 meals the first quarter of this year in the food pantry. In the thrift store, volunteers served 1,222 customers and sorted 6,236 pounds of donations.

Additionally, Centerburg ISS provided $1,316.95 in financial assistance for housing and utilities.

In 2022, financial aid totaled $6,797.44. Pantry numbers totaled 344 families and 779 individuals, and thrift store customers totaled 4,906.

Fergus noted the ISS food pantries do not have lot of fresh produce and dairy.

“That is my vision: We need to get healthier food,” she said. “I love Mid-Ohio Food Bank, but canned food is not healthy.”

The Life & Culture section is brought to you by Knox Community Hospital.

A Christian ultrarunner who likes coffee and quilting

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