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The Enfield Food Pantry has reopened its doors to the hundreds of residents who rely on its services after the community rallied together to donate $22,000 to upgrade the facility.

The pantry, which serves between 450 and 600 people a week, was shut down in June by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier because of a rodent infestation. But after widespread community support, the pantry reopened in July after contracting a pest management service, installing new shelving and a walk-in freezer and sealing and painting the building.

Community Foundation of Tompkins County, which offered to close the funding gap for the project, donated $1,800 to the food pantry from the Tompkins Today and Tomorrow Fund, its most flexible grantmaking fund.

"The Community Foundation gave us not just the financial support and assurances that they were there to help us see through this project, but it was just the support of knowing that the Community Foundation would help make sure that this came to fruition that gave me the encouragement to spur me on," said Jean Owens, who has directed Enfield Food Distribution, which operates the pantry, for 45 years.

The closure was the first for the food pantry in Enfield, which was established by the First Baptist Church of Enfield Center, where Owens is a pastor, nearly 100 years ago. The pantry distributes an estimated 500,000 pounds of food a year and serves about 170 families, a week, Owens said.

Located in the Enfield Food Community Building, the pantry began serving an increasing number of families when it opened on Sundays about a year and a half ago, Owens said. Enfield is the only food pantry in Tompkins County with Sunday hours.

Natasha Thompson, president and chief executive officer of the Food Bank, said the Enfield pantry had become infested with rodents because of a number of vacant buildings in the area. But after Thompson, Owens, and several clients attended an Enfield Town Board meeting, the board agreed to contract with a pest control service.

Another critical issue was that the food pantry did not have enough freezer space to store the quantity of frozen meat and vegetables being delivered by the Food Bank. A GoFundMe page raised enough money to buy a $14,000 walk-in freezer from B&W Supply Co. in Ithaca.

Randy Lawrence, a sales and service representative at B&W, said the company expedited the sale and installation of the 8-by-10-foot freezer when the order was placed. "As soon as it came in, they were ready for us, and we built it and had it wired," Lawrence said.

Donations flooded in from local churches and individuals, including $5,000 from St. Paul's United Methodist Church and $2,500 from a dentist and oral surgeon in downtown Ithaca.

Pantries in Trumansburg and Newfield offered to serve the pantry's clients, and the Food Bank brought its mobile food pantry truck to Enfield for two special distribution runs.

"I was so completely overwhelmed with the offers of support that came in seemingly from every direction," Owens said. "Nothing could have possibly taken place without all of that help."

Community Foundation supported the fundraising effort by alerting donors and sharing information from a food pantry volunteer through its social media. "This is a great illustration of how our community rallied in a positive way so that they not only could reopen but that they could also meet the increased demand," said George Ferrari, chief executive officer of Community Foundation.

Thompson said the renovation of the food pantry will give it a more solid foundation to move forward and serve families in Enfield. "In the long run, the pantry is much cleaner, they have the equipment that they need, they have the support of the town board, and hopefully Jean feels the support of the broader community," Thompson said. "I think this is a good example of how we're all in this together."

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