By TIM ROWDEN
Sr. Staff Writer
Arnold – The Arnold Food Pantry and Thrift Store is moving into a new location later this month, thanks largely to the help and generosity of local unions, who have donated labor and cash and coordinated donations of materials from their affiliate contractors to renovate an old warehouse distribution center as the new location for the pantry.
“I cannot say enough about how much work that the unions have done out there and the quality of the work,” Kathy Flanigan, the food pantry’s director said. “It just amazes me that there are people out there that will devote their time and talents to what we need to do here.”
What they do is substantial. The Arnold Food Pantry is the largest non-denominational food pantry in the St. Louis area and services residents of Arnold, Imperial and unincorporated Fenton, providing food and personal care items to about 150 families a week – all without any money from city, county, state or federal sources.
The new building at 2024 Key West Drive is 12,000-square feet – nearly twice the size of the pantry’s current location at 25 Village Plaza in Arnold.
The pantry purchased the building, which was in need of renovation, earlier this year. The pantry’s goal was to raise $450,000 in cash and in-kind donations to renovate and pay off the building in eight years.
They have already reached nearly $280,000 of that goal thanks largely to the help of local unions.
MIRACLE ON KEY WEST DRIVE
“We really do feel like the unions have made a miracle happen out there on Key West drive,” said Vern Sullivan, a member of the food pantry’s board of directors. “There’s no way we could have done this without the trades helping us. We couldn’t afford it.”
Unions and contractors that are helping in the effort include: IBEW Local 1, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 1, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis, Floor Layers Local 1310, Painters District Council 2, Laborers Local 110, Operating Engineers Local 513, Larry Bast Construction Company, Budrovich Excavating, De Soto Ozark Electric, Scott Lee Heating and Cooling, Sauder Plumbing, Bussen Quarries Inc., Pace Construction, Warren Sign Company and Waste Management Co.
Union contractors donated many of the materials used in the renovation, or sold them to the pantry at cost.
Union volunteers, apprentices and out of work members gave of their time and expertise to do the work.
A WORTHY CAUSE
The St. Louis Electrical Connection – a partnership of IBEW Local 1 and the St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) – donated $15,000 for electrical renovations at the pantry, secured fixtures and materials and provided labor.
“With donations of labor and materials we estimate we have donated approximately $40,000.00 to this worthy cause,” said Dave Stanley, business representative for IBEW Local 1. “With the support of the labor unions, union leadership, union members, contractors, and suppliers, we can say that this project has been an overwhelming success. IBEW Local 1 felt that this was a great way to give back to the community as well as Jefferson County where over 900 of our members reside.”
Warren Sign Co., an IBEW affiliate in Arnold, donated roughly $25,000 worth of signage for the building, including one large sign on the roof that is visible from Highway 141.
Working through their contractors and vendors, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 donated roughly $43,000 worth of new equipment and donated labor to the food pantry – including two new five-ton air-conditioning units and two 90 percent efficiency furnaces and duct work – Business Agent Tom Leonard said.
“With times being what they are, we’ve had some of our members end up using the food pantry,” Leonard said. “This is a way we can give something back and help them in their mission.”
Other donations included plumbing fixtures, flooring, paint, drywall, trim, insulation, asphalt for the parking lot and many other materials and hours of union labor both from journeymen and apprentices, who used the project as part of their training.
LABOR BUILT THIS
Arnold Ward 3 City Councilman Phil Amato, a member of the Jefferson County Labor Club and the food pantry’s board of directors, made the initial request to the labor club for unions to help with the project and is quick to point out labor’s role in getting it done.
Amato said the pantry and thrift store will have two plaques inside recognizing the unions, contractors and vendors who helped in the renovation.
Amato said the plaques will read in part “Labor of Love – Organized Labor built America and also built this food pantry.”
“This food pantry remodeling absolutely, unequivocally could not have been done without the help of all the building trades,” Amato said. “I’ve worked with many of these guys in the building trades for years and even I have been surprised in how resourceful they’ve been. Not only talented in doing their work, but resourceful in getting us the materials and equipment we needed. Without organized labor, it couldn’t have been done.”
A LONG TERM BENEFIT
Moving into the new building will not only give the pantry and thrift store more room to operate, it will save money that can go toward feeding the hungry.
The mortgage payments for the new building are less than half the cost of the $4,400 monthly rent and utility payment at the non-profit’s current location. The mortgage payment on the new building is $1,950, not including utilities.
Even figuring in water, trash and electrical expenses, Flanigan said the monthly cost of owning the new building will be less than half what the pantry was spending to rent its current location.
YOU CAN GIVE
The food pantry’s capital campaign is continuing. To donate, just visit www.wefeedthehungry.org or call the pantry at (636) 467-5959 for more information.