NACE will end food shelf operation in Linwood

Move is official on Monday, Jan. 16

Eric Hagen
ECM Staff Writer

As the North Anoka County Emergency Food Shelf’s East Bethel facility expands for more food and clothing storage, its Linwood Township location closes. Effective Monday, Jan. 16, all distribution will be handled in East Bethel at 18511 Highway 65 NE. The last day NACE will operate the Linwood food shelf is Friday, Jan. 13.

NACE Director Joanne Yackel said the only motive is to better serve the people. That is why NACE agreed to operate the Linwood food shelf in the first place. She stressed that NACE will still help people in Linwood and other communities that it has always served.

“NACE’s interests has always been about serving the clients,” Yackel said. “In the end, that will still happen.”

To ease the transition for people having difficulty getting to East Bethel, the Linwood Covenant Church will bring a van to East Bethel on the second Monday of every month, according to Judy Steven, who is organizing the bus rides.

The van leaves at 9:15 a.m., but Steven said people planning to ride should contact the church ahead of time so they know how many will be using it. The church’s phone number is 651-462-3780.

Some Upset

Despite NACE’s efforts to ease the transition, some Linwood residents are not happy about the decision.

Steven said some people are upset because Linwood is its own small community that has had a food shelf for about 15 to 20 years before NACE agreed to take over operations in the summer of 2010.

Steven is not a fan of the move either. She is concerned about the people who will have to spend more on gas money to get to the food shelf.

The East Bethel and Linwood NACE locations are about 10 miles apart.

Melvin Pfaffendorf, vice chairperson of the Linwood Senior Center Advisory Board, is not angry about the decision but is disappointed because the food shelf was such an important part of the community.

According to Pfaffendorf, many local businesses, schools and churches donated to the food shelf, residents brought in fresh fruit and vegetables and bread, while The Golden Club senior citizen group made coffee and rolls that people could dine on when picking up their food.

“I think the food shelf here at Linwood has been serving people for a good number of years,” Pfaffendorf said.

“I feel it was a good location because it was situated on the edge of Anoka County.”

Right Call

Mike Halliday has a dual perspective of serving on the town board and the NACE Board of Directors. He thinks NACE made the right decision and said that NACE’s outreach efforts led to a much higher use of the East Bethel and Linwood food shelf.

Residents have called to ask what led to the decision, but Halliday said nobody has expressed anger about it to him.

“I look at it as being the best way to meet NACE’s mission to provide food and clothing for people,” he said.

According to Yackel, NACE distributed 50,243 pounds of food to 566 households in November and December of 2010. As of Dec. 16, NACE had distributed 53,243 pounds of food to 605 households in November and part of December of 2011.

Yackel credited the volunteers NACE had at the Linwood food shelf and hopes they will continue to serve at the East Bethel location.

The hours are unchanged from Mondays through Wednesdays, but volunteers are needed for Thursdays, which was one of the days the Linwood location was open. NACE will no longer be open on Fridays.

Annebelle Budde helped run the Linwood food shelf and will move to the East Bethel location. Linda Wieser will continue to work at the East Bethel location.

Yackel said with all three staff members being at same building, each person can focus more on a certain task, although all are trained to do everything.

For the first trial period, Wieser will be focused on client in-take and coordinating volunteers while Budde will be in charge of ordering food from the food bank and organizing the warehouse, she said.

Yackel said it was a tough decision to close the Linwood food shelf, but she said it is the best long-term solution. “Long-range, it will be more administratively effective,” she said.

The Decision

The NACE Food Shelf and the Clothing Closet needed to find a new home in 2006 when Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church moved. The food shelf moved to a small vacant office building near the East Bethel Theater and the Clothing Closet was housed at the Cedar United Methodist Church in Ham Lake.

On Aug. 31, 2009, NACE opened at its present location. The leased space was big enough to handle the food shelf and the Clothing Closet.

Even before this location opened, the Linwood Town Clerk Judy Hanna had contacted NACE to see if it could operate the township’s food shelf.

In a previous interview, Hanna told the Anoka County Union that the food shelf in Linwood could no longer purchase the discounted food from the Second Harvest Heartland food bank unless Linwood started a non-profit organization or merged with an existing non-profit or a church.

NACE and Linwood were eventually able to reach an agreement in which NACE would operate the Linwood location. According to Yackel, there were plenty of volunteers in Linwood, but there were logistical challenges.

For example, Yackel said NACE saved money on delivery costs, by asking truck drivers to only come to the East Bethel location. A NACE volunteer or staff person would then drive a little over 10 miles to the Linwood food shelf to drop off food.

The same thing had to happen when people made bulk donation drops at the East Bethel location because Yackel wanted to ensure that clients going to Linwood were adequately served.

As donations and demand increased, NACE needed more space. This past fall, NACE signed an agreement to purchase Suite 200 at 18511 Highway 65 NE that it has leased since August 2009. NACE also purchased the neighboring vacant Suite 100, according to Yackel.

Connie Jeffers, chairperson of the NACE Board, said NACE wanted certainty over its future and owning rather than renting is a huge deal.

“It feels permanent,” Jeffers said. “We feel this is where we’re going to be. We don’t have to wonder, ‘Will the building be sold from under us?’”

Around the same time that NACE was purchasing this office space in East Bethel, the Linwood Town Board was considering the future of the Linwood food shelf.

Yackel said a person on the Linwood advisory board who volunteers for NACE raised the idea that the senior center could offer more storage space for food shelf. Yackel was thrilled about this possibility, but during exploration of this concept, an issue was raised about whether the space NACE utilizes at the Linwood Senior Center would be temporary or permanent, she said.

According to the Sept. 27 minutes of the Linwood Town Board, all board supervisors voted to give up to three feet more storage space to NACE and approve the food shelf site as permanent.

Although he voted yes, Supervisor Philip Osterhus said he believes the long-range planning he was part of never meant for 500 square-feet already used by NACE to be used forever.

Jeffers said the town board’s decision played no role in the NACE board’s decision on Oct. 13 to close the Linwood food shelf.

Yackel was not certain if Linwood could have determined that the food shelf space was needed for something else down the road.

NACE would have needed an attorney to review the documents if it had proceeded further with Linwood’s proposal, but she said that NACE is an independent non-profit and its board decided it was best to not have this uncertainty and be under any political group.

“We need to think of the best interests and most secure long-term interest for NACE,” Yackel said.