SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - A dream years in the making became reality Monday morning for the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.
"It is so exciting to open it to the community officially and welcome the community in to show how much their efforts support what we do,” said Food Bank Chief Operating Officer Wendy Lewis.
With dozens of staff, community members, local dignitaries, donors and other invited guests on hand, Food Bank held a long-awaited open house and ribbon cutting for its new warehouse and headquarters, located near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.
"What this represents is a gift to the community, the whole community, including those who are suffering from poverty and low incomes so they are able to have access to healthy food,” said Food Bank CEO Carl Hansen.
The new building replaces two smaller facilities located in Paso Robles and Oceano. At 20,000 square feet, Hansen says the massive warehouse will enable Food Bank to run a more efficient operation.
"Operating two warehouses is very redundant in terms of expenses, so we needed to build one and build it large enough and centralize it to be equitable to all the agencies in the county,” said Hansen.
Lewis emphasizes having one location, instead of two, will not compromise any distribution Food Bank has delivered in the past. With over 200 agency partners, Food Bank serves 40,000 residents, which is about one-in-six people in the county.
"We want all the communities to know that because we're physically located in San Luis Obispo, we're serving every location in the county,” Lewis said. “From San Simeon to California Valley to Nipomo, our services are still going out and the efficiencies we've gained by moving into one location will create the ability to get more food out."
During the 30 minute ceremony, Hansen revealed the new building will be named after Will and Helen Webster. The Paso Robles couple has donated faithfully to Food Bank, including a significant contribution that helped provide the down payment for the new site.
"It's named after them because they not only gave us the money to help us make our down payment here, they've given over the years very generously,” Hansen said. “We're so grateful to them and proud to name this warehouse after their family."
While Monday officially marked the beginning of an era, it also signaled the end of one too. After 11 years serving as CEO, Hansen is retiring, effective at the end of the momentous day.
"I'm overwhelmed with this great feeling of satisfaction and the realization that together in this community we worked together to make this happen and to be part of that is very exciting,” said Hansen.
Lewis noted a replacement is expected to be named within four-to-six weeks.
Both Lewis and Hansen added that donations are still needed to help pay for the new headquarters. Even though the building is now operational, fundraising continues on.
"We're still looking for some capital gifts because we're about halfway through out capital campaign. Even though we're physically have a building, we're hoping gifts will still come in and help us bring down our mortgage,” said Lewis.
Anyone interested can contact Food Bank at: www.slofoodbank.org