SIKESTON -- The Bootheel Food Bank is not leaving Sikeston; it is just moving its main office and some operations.
Karen Green, executive director of the Food Bank since January 2007, said as many have voiced concern since reading the March 2 article about the Food Bank's new location on Nash Road in Cape Girardeau, she wanted to "set the record straight."
"The Sikeston Food Pantry will continue to operate," Green said. "We've gotten a lot of calls about that -- they thought they'd have to go to another county. The Bootheel Food Bank has operated at the Kingshighway facility for more than 20 years and this location will continue to be an important factor in maintaining accessibility for the Food Bank's agencies and in reducing transportation costs."
The Bootheel Food Bank opened in the old Marian Pepsi Bottling Company building in Sikeston in 1985.
"It was founded by Joel Montgomery Sr.," Green said. "He originally founded the Food Bank because he saw there was a need for people in poverty to get some help. So he got together with Dorene Johnson, who was the original executive director, and they set up the Food Bank. Harry and Rosemary Crisp generously donated the warehouse facility on South Kingshighway by Plaza Tire to get us started -- that was the original home of the Food Bank."
Several years later, the building behind the old Pepsi building that is now the Food Panty was built to house a thrift store.
"That thrift store was designed to raise money to purchase additional foods for the indigent who lived in the area," Green said.
The Bootheel Food Bank was originally intended to serve just the local area, according to Green, but then the late U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson got involved.
"As a result of his involvement, we were able to become the distributor for USDA foods," she said. "We then expanded our services into 16 counties in southeast Missouri."
Counties served by the Bootheel Food Bank are: Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi, Stoddard, Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Madison, Pemiscot, Perry, Reynolds, Ripley, Ste. Genevieve and Wayne.
Nearly 150 food panties, homeless shelters, senior centers and other not-
for-profit agencies now make up the Food Bank's hunger relief network in southeast Missouri. "And we know there are other emergency food providers out there that need our services," Green said.
The old Pepsi building has about 10,000 square feet, according to Green.
The Bootheel Food Bank expanded some years ago by renting a 30,000-
square-foot building on Keystone Drive for administrative office space and additional warehouse space. It is this facility that the building on Nash Road is replacing.
"Our lease was up -- they wanted to sell that building so we had to leave," Green said. "We only relocated what we had on Keystone Drive. Everything else remained the same."
As the building on Nash Road, which is owned by Doug Lipps, has office space in addition to 25,000 square feet of warehouse space, the Food Bank's administration has moved there.
Roger Woolsey, volunteer coordinator and commodity supplemental food program coordinator, will keep his office in the building on South Kingshighway.
"We still have a freezer at the Keystone building we need to tear down and move here, but other than that we're completely moved," Green said. "We just finished this week."
Green said they plan to have an open house at the new facility on Nash Road in the near future.
"The Bootheel Food Bank has greatly benefited from community-based volunteer support at the Sikeston Kingshighway location and continues to rely on this valuable resource," she said.
The main reason the Nash Road building was selected to replace the Keystone facility can be summed up in a single word: visibility.
"We're going to be able to recruit more food donors," Green said. "This should create awareness and hopefully increase participation in what we do."
She said the hope is there will be an increase in financial support, food donations and volunteers from throughout the service area.
"Our goal is not to let anyone in southeast Missouri go to bed hungry -- that's really what we're all about," Green said. "If you know of a family who needs food assistance and don't know where to go, call us."
The Bootheel Food Bank can be reached by calling 471-1818 in Sikeston or 651-0400 in Cape Girardeau.