MARSHALL – Beacon of Hope’s search for a new home is over.
The nonprofit organization offering food and emergency assistance to low income families and individuals in Madison County and surrounding counties has been operating at its location next to Cavalry Worship Center Church of God in Marshall, but Beacon is under contract to move into a new location, 5111 US 25-70, in the old Bee Fit gym and Mattress by Appointment building.
The 4,800-square-feet space will allow the crucial community resource more flexibility to carry out its five-days-per-week food distribution schedule, according to BOH Executive Director Jessi Koontz.
First, the organization needs to pay its bills to be able to carry out its mission of helping to feed the county’s most at-risk populations.
“Our down payment is due at closing, which is currently set for April 27,” Koontz said.
Koontz said the organization previously acquired a property on NC 213 but now needs to sell that tract, as it is no longer suitable for the organization.
Carrie Hoffman serves on the BOH board as a real estate agent helping it transition to its new home and to sell the land the nonprofit organization had previously purchased.
“It’s really just all wonderful little miracles,” Hoffman said. “Cynthia Niles deserves a lot of credit for contacting us, because she offered her place up to us. It’s really amazing.”
According to Koontz, BOH distributes 35,000-37,000 pounds of food per month. The pantry picks up seven days a week from Publix and also receives donations from Aldi and Dollar General.
Koontz called MANNA FoodBank “huge supporters of Beacon,” and said the organization is the third largest distributor of MANNA’s 210 partners.
The new location signifies new beginnings for the organization, according to its executive director.
“For me, this year is the year of Beacon, we are rising out of the ashes like a phoenix,” Koontz said. “We’ve been understaffed, we’ve been operating beyond capacity and we went through a pandemic.”
In Hoffman’s view, the Beacon of Hope carries out God’s calling of helping neighbors in need.
“It’s God’s promise. We’re supposed to take care of our neighbors. I don’t know a better way to do this. My mom loved feeding people. Earlier today, a little girl started crying out of gratitude. We are all one paycheck away,” she said April 12.
Koontz said she and fellow board members are excited to be in the new spot, as it will afford the organization the ability to focus solely on its operations, which are critical to the county.
“We serve about 1,000 families a month,” Koontz said. “We’re already kind of working on the transition for our new space. Because the new parking lot is smaller, we’re doing Monday through Friday distributions.”
The new space will feature a client’s choice room with a three-door cooler, a meat freezer, and the bread and pastries will also be in there.
“Everyone will be shopping for all their perishable options, and still have the option of shopping for their dry goods, but they’ll all be inside,” Koontz said. “So, it will be more climate controlled.”
Janet Spivey is a retired social worker who has volunteered with Beacon for roughly a year and a half.
“It’s good to see people’s faces and hear them say, ‘Thank you,'” she said. “It can mean a lot on a tight budget, and we open up the produce and the bread out back to the community – depending on supplies and stuff.”
Marshall Resident Ivy Farnham said she comes weekly to Beacon to capitalize on the organization’s fresh produce.
Jane Boyd previously volunteered for Beacon but now primarily uses the organization for its services.
“There’s a sense of family here, like even when you’re standing in line here, everyone’s pretty respectful,” Boyd said. “You pretty much see the same people, and you’ve got the ones who always get here early. I’m one of the early birds. I mostly get apples, cabbage and grapes.
“It helps out so much, especially with the produce because it’s gotten so expensive. Things to make a salad, which diabetics and people with heart problems need, they usually can’t afford produce at a grocery store.”
Madison County Health Director Tammy Cody often stops in at the distributions to pick up food for families at her church.
“Fresh produce in the mountains, that’s a good thing,” Cody said. “Our community is a very remote area, and to have Beacon be able to supply our population with fresh fruits and vegetables is huge.”
The county health director said she plans to speak more with Koontz about partnering with the organization for its Healthy Opportunities Pilots, a comprehensive program to test and evaluate the impact of providing select evidence-based, non-medical interventions related to housing, food, transportation and interpersonal safety and toxic stress to high-needs Medicaid enrollees, according to NCDHHS.
“For us, it’s about making sure you can live the healthiest lives that you can live.”
With an emphasis on fresh produce and its healthy foods program, Beacon has partnered with Spruce Pine-based Tractor Food and Farms as it pivots to a more food hub-oriented operation.
“We’re going to work with them until we’re ready to spread our wings,” Koontz said.
Cody said Beacon’s move was good news for the whole county.
“I think it’s really important to have a permanent spot to not have to worry about – for them or for us – losing it,” the county health director said. “This is the biggest food pantry that we have in our county. So, knowing that we have security in that is huge.”
Norwood Schoenke is Beacon of Hope’s thrift store manager.
According to Schoenke, the thrift store plans to have its grand opening May 15.
Koontz said the food pantry component should be online by July.
“We have to do a lot of renovating for that part,” Koontz said.
The executive director said food distributions would continue five days a week.
According to Koontz, Beacon of Hope is seeking $75,000 for its move. To donate to the organization, visit a GoFundMe established to help raise funds for BOH’s move.
“We serve folks from all over,” Koontz said. “It doesn’t matter what county you live in. If you come to the Beacon, we will help you out in any way we can.
The impact our organization has within the community goes well beyond the assistance we provide. We have worked to create a safe space, where everyone is welcome. We offer moral support and develop relationships with families served, customers, volunteers, staff and our community. We offer hope and a sense of belonging, along with the feeling that no one is alone, rather that we are all in this together.”
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Beacon of Hope to move into new home at end of month