Loaves and Fishes breaks bread over new expansion
In the fashion of its Biblical namesake, Loaves and Fishes has made much of little to feed the masses.
Loaves and Fishes Food Bank of the Ozarks Inc. unveiled its expanded facility to the community on Tuesday, Jan. 24, standing on the concrete dividing line between old and new as they cut the ribbon.
Sara Hodgson, director and co-founder of Loaves and Fishes, said the expansion added just under 1,000 square feet, and also a second bathroom, to the facility. She said secretary Lieu Smith served as the construction manager for the project.
"He spent a lot of time on it. Lieu was relentless in making sure everything was done properly," Hodgson said, "He was right on top of every detail."
Ezra Hodgson, co-founder of Loaves and Fishes and Sara's husband, joked that the expansion did not take a NASA scientist. However, it didn't hurt to have one on hand, he said.
"Lieu is a retired NASA scientist and one of the original volunteers for Loaves and Fishes," Ezra Hodgson said. "We started planning this expansion last January. We had to get an engineer working on the drawings, which took about three months. Lieu oversaw the project from there."
Smith said the motivating need for the expansion was the Food for Hungry Kids program, which provides food to students at Berryville and Green Forest schools who need it. Loaves and Fishes moves more than 100 backpacks full of food each week, he said, so there is a constant flow of supplies through the facility. There was not enough space in the original facility to store and pack the food before the expansion, Smith said, so volunteers had to move all of the supplies from the back of the facility to the main counter up front to pack them.
"We move about 125 backpacks a week, and we try not to do packing every week because that's a lot of logistical work," he said. "We try to do 200 to 300 at one time. When you get a big group of 25 Baptist youth group members in here with their sponsors, you've got stuff flying all over the place. We were jam-packed and needed more space."
With the new expansion, Smith said Loaves and Fishes volunteers can now pack the food supplies on the tables in the back.
"We can pack 200 backpacks in an hour now," he said. "There's just a lot of activity, so we really needed this space to handle this operation. It really is wonderful what we got accomplished."
Alan Sanderson of Morton Buildings, which did the construction for both the original building and the expansion, said the hardest part was blending the old building with the new building.
"The hardest part was doing the seam where the old building was," Sanderson said. "We actually poured concrete over the old
loading dock to make it part of the building."
Smith said it was difficult because they had to maintain security while doing the construction.
"Remember, we had to maintain security, so we couldn't take the end wall out while we poured concrete," he said. "We had to keep all the supplies secure."
Sarah Hodgson said the expansion has been a big help for the Food for Hungry Kids program.
"It's been wonderful for the Food for Hungry Kids program especially because we were so cramped," she said. "It all came together very well, and we're so pleased with it. It's been a big blessing."