JFS Food Pantry adding support space
Photos: Courtesy Jewish Family Service
During the pandemic, the Jewish Family Service Food Pantry went from serving 5,000 people a year to 15,000 in just six months with more than 1 million pounds of food distributed.

By Deb Silverthorn

Construction is underway for the Jewish Family Service’s food pantry expansion, which will add 3,000 square feet to the facility and is due to open in mid-October.

 The “Food Pantry Expansion Project: Some Assembly Required” campaign, currently underway, has raised $35,000 of the $100,000 it hopes to bring in by July 31.

“Our pipe dreams have become reality and the opportunity to think bigger than we ever expected of ourselves,” said JFS President and CEO Cathy Barker. “We have been tested with hurricanes, tornadoes, freezing storms and COVID-19 — never imagining our capabilities. Our culture is one of collaboration and heart and we are grateful to move forward, making more possible than ever.”

JFS had been leasing a portion of its building to Plaza Salon Prestonwood. The conclusion of the lease allows the add-on of 3,000 square feet, room to separate the distribution and client service areas from where goods are received and stored at JFS’ Edna Zale Building on Arapaho Road.

With the additional space, the food pantry will be able to serve more clients more efficiently. The agency is still hosting Thursday morning drive-thru pickups.

The expansion campaign is a bridge project of a larger capital campaign to expand JFS offices by 2026. That project is co-chaired by Lisa and Randy Fleisher and Kari and David Goldberg. Nearly $400,000 of the $1 million goal was secured before the end of 2020, including a $100,000 grant from the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies to fund the Kosher Corner.

“Our Jewish community is actively engaged in helping, we serve as a Kiddush HaShem, way beyond our insular circle, and this new space is going to allow us to increase that circle even wider,” said David Goldberg.  “JFS’ leadership, its board, staff and volunteers have brought us to a place, again, where dreams happen.” Goldberg has a special commitment to this project, having been very involved in many Food Pantry initiatives as an advocate, volunteer and donor. His wife Kari and daughters Abigail, Alexis  and Samantha join him as JFS volunteers. 

In addition to the increased space, the current fundraising effort will provide new refrigerators, shelves, pallet jacks, shopping carts and more. 

Prior to COVID-19, JFS’ Food Pantry was already serving at capacity but, because of space limitations, needed to limit the amount of food donations. The drive-thru food distribution model, which in the past 16-months served more than 700 families each week, worked well during the pandemic, but is not an adequate long-term solution, said Robin Raxlin-Gormley, JFS senior director of Hunger Relief & Emergency Assistance. 

“We went from serving 5,000 people a year to 15,000 in just six months with more than 1 million pounds of food given out in just six months. The new space is a game-changer for us and we can’t wait,” she said. The new space will allow JFS to resume the personal interviews of clients so that the organization can best meet their needs.

For 70 years, JFS has welcomed all in need of support, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or the ability to pay. The agency’s mission is to provide effective, accessible and comprehensive mental health and social services that promote lifelong self-sufficiency and well-being for the Greater Dallas community. JFS’ leadership believes that the Food Pantry’s expansion will allow clients to be served in a way that expresses that mission’s dignified and confidential experience.

“Volunteering at the Food Pantry is so incredibly impactful and as much as we do, we need to be able to do more to provide for those who need our help,” said Randy Fleisher, whose children Jonah and Marlee also volunteer. “Suffering from hunger makes it tough to move forward in many areas and JFS is here to help support our clients all along.”

To make a donation to the “Food Pantry Expansion Project: Some Assembly Required,” visit JFSdallas.org/fpep. To volunteer at any JFS opportunity, visit jfsdallas.volunteerhub.com.

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