ST. MARYS – The drive-thru addition at Christian Food Bank in St. Marys, which started out as a safe solution during the COVID-19 pandemic, is now the gateway for its permanent distribution process.

The food bank, serving eligible clients in St. Marys Area School District, received CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds from Elk County, as well as the City of St. Marys, that it put to use by installing a full-time drive-thru building beside the food bank on South Michael Road.

Daghir Construction of St. Marys began working on the groundwork for the drive-thru garage in October, said CFB board member Bob Luchini.

Now, on the food bank’s distribution day each Thursday, volunteers in the main building pass the boxes of food through a window that leads into the drive-thru garage. Then, volunteers conveniently place the designated boxes in the clients’ car for them.

The steel building, equipped with two garage doors for clients to enter and exit, also protects volunteers from cold and rainy weather, said Luchini. And, it actually requires less volunteers than the in-person distribution process.

During the pandemic, volunteers discovered this system is much more efficient, safe and overall convenient for everyone involved, said CFB Director Georgia Wagner and Luchini. They have received very positive feedback about the drive-thru, and have even had more clients sign up for services, including senior citizens. It’s particularly more convenient for individuals who need a walker or wheelchair, or those who may desire more confidentiality can now stay in their cars.

Every volunteer has a job, and there is no confusion, said Luchini. The entire process takes just a few minutes, tops. Now, the only time clients come into the building is for the interviewing process.

Originally, they had hoped to have the building completed by Thanksgiving, said Luchini, but ran into some obstacles in receiving building supplies. The drive-thru building became fully operational in mid February.

Thanks to receiving several grants, CFB has been taking on other projects as well.

The main building has been rearranged to make room for more storage. And, for the first time ever, CFB is slowly replacing its floor, and has installed a handicapped-accessible restroom.

CFB is always extremely fortunate when it comes to donations and support from the community, including individuals, businesses, organizations and others, said Wagner.

They have recently seen an increase in memorial donations as well, Luchini noted.

Starting a Facebook page for the food bank has helped to spread awareness of the food bank and its role in the community, they said.

Follow The Christian Food Bank on Facebook. Call 814-834-1951 for more information.

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