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Thurmont Food Bank asks town for permanent, central space

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(4/3) Thurmont commissioners will consider later this month a request from the volunteer-led Thurmont Food Bank, for a permanent, town-owned location.

Food bank managers approached commissioners about a new permanent space on Monday, saying that the food bank’s current location is temporary and not ideal.

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, at 15 N. Church St., currently hosts the food bank. As the church grows, it needs more space more often, according to food bank managers the Rev. Sally Joyner Giffin and Jeff Gehris.

‘‘Frequently, we are sharing space with them while they’re having other activities," Giffin, pastor at Harriet Chapel, an Episcopal church in Catoctin Furnace, told commissioners. ‘‘There’s a problem with that, in terms of confidentiality. I’m there asking people their social security number, I’m asking them [for] embarrassing information, and there are meetings going on, so it’s not really the best setting for our needs."

The Rev.Craig Moorman, pastor at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, said Wednesday that the food bank will have a home at St. John’s for as long as it wants one.

‘‘I can’t see a time in the near future where we couldn’t make space," Moorman said, adding that overflow space is available in the church’s fellowship hall.

Moorman said that the church is ‘‘privileged" to host the food bank.

‘‘It’s a real important part of the community," he said.

The church has offered space for the food bank twice, according to St. John’s president Gayle Spahr. The most recent agreement has been in place since 2003 or 2004. The food bank is in Corbitt Chapel, a former location for Saturday evening services and Sunday school. It has room for about 25 seats, Spahr said.

The church hopes to grow, she said, and sometimes holds Sunday school in the pastor’s office. The church also serves as the home of Thurmont Thespians, a theater troupe, and provides preschool classes.

Giffin and Gehris said the food bank’s next location ought to be bigger, permanent, handicap-accessible, heated, lockable and in downtown Thurmont, with plenty of parking.

Town Commissioner Robert E. Lookingbill readily pledged his support. Lookingbill cited Walkersville, which houses the Glade Valley Food Bank in its town hall, as a model.

‘‘I want to attach it to the town government so it’s permanent," Lookingbill said. ‘‘We’ve got to step up and do what we can."

Commissioner Glenn D. Muth asked Giffin and Gehris for a written request, spelling out the food bank’s needs for a new location, and the board agreed to discuss the formal request later this month.

Commissioner Ronald A. Terpko, who did not attend the meeting but watched it from home, said Tuesday that he favors extending a hand to the food bank. ‘‘I’d like to see us try to help them," Terpko said. ‘‘[In the current economic conditions], things are horrible."

Thurmont owns its town hall at 10 Frederick Road, which currently houses the Thurmont Police Department and stores other town equipment. It also owns the Thurmont Senior Center at 806 E. Main St. Space may open up in either town hall or at the senior center when the police department relocates in September, commissioners said. Barring those possibilities, the town could help the food bank find a home elsewhere, Terpko said.

John Kinnaird, a local businessman and president of the Thurmont Planning and Zoning Commission, urged commissioners not to step in to help the food bank. Doing so would convince residents that their taxes supported the food bank, and would disincline them to donate food or money, he argued.

The Thurmont Food Bank, one of eight in Frederick County, is open from 6-7:30 p.m., on Tuesdays, and from 3:30-5 p.m., Fridays.

The Thurmont Ministerium operates the food bank with help from the Frederick-based Religious Coalition, and about 25 volunteers work there each month.

Monetary donations in 2007 amounted to about $11,600, of which $9,500 was spent on food, Giffin said.

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