HOLDEN, Mass. — As Oriol Health Care moves forward with its construction projects, the Wachusett Food Pantry is once again in dire need of a new home and continues to look for help from the community to continue its operations.
In 2010, the Oriol Family and Wachusett Extended Care stepped up to offer the food pantry use of the former hospital building for its food storage and distributions, enabling the organization to keep providing food to hundreds of local families in need.
Yet it is estimated that in June of 2013 the hospital building will be closed for evaluation when the residents move into the new wing at Holden Rehab, and the food pantry will again be looking for an organization or individual to step forward to offer a new location.
"We'll be without a home," said food pantry President Karen Halley. "We have a lot of food that we give out on a regular basis to a lot of people who come as they need it."
In 2012, the food pantry provided emergency food to more than 314 individual families, about 861 people, through 1,821 visits, officials said. This is an increase over 2011, in which 284 families, or 724 people, made a total of 1,703 visits.
Gene Stirchak, also of the food pantry, said the vast majority of the people supported come from Holden and Jefferson, and the number of seniors has risen from approximately 10 families in 2005 to more than 150 families.
While the current operation makes use of 3,000-square-feet of space at Oriol, Halley said it could easily run the distribution with 1,000-square-feet.
"We know who we need to serve, what we need to serve and when, and we just modify how we serve it," she said. "We're very flexible about that."
In the coming months, the Holden Selectboard will be hosting a public discussion to help brainstorm ideas on how to help the pantry continue its service.
"They help a tremendous amount of our citizens get food that they need," said Selectman Anthony Renzoni. "We need this. The food pantry needs to continue to exist, and I'm going to be committed to doing everything I can to help."