Purchase will help the organization address food insecurity in new ways
The Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) has sold the Palm Beach factory building on Bourne Avenue to God’s Food Pantry at a significantly reduced price, helping the non-profit organization achieve its dream to expand.
Currently located on South Central Avenue in downtown Somerset, God’s Food Pantry has fed Pulaski Countians in need for nearly four decades. The organization outgrew its space some time ago, Executive Director Brenda Russell said. The purchase of the 95,000-square-foot facility once occupied by Palm Beach Company will allow God’s Food Pantry to serve the community in new ways.
“This moves us one step closer to a dream we gave breath to more than five years ago,” Russell said. “We know that we still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be but we also know that, with help from our community and a lot of faithful prayers, it will happen.”
The property transaction comes at a time when food banks across the country are seeing a surge in the number of people they are serving. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Feeding America — a non-profit food bank network of which God’s Food Pantry is a member — estimates more than 50 million people experienced food insecurity in 2020, including a potential 17 million children.
In Kentucky, one in seven people is food insecure — the eighth highest rate in the nation. Locally, the number of people served at God’s Food Pantry has increased by 500 percent in the last seven years. In an average year, the organization provides 40,000 prepared meals through its sack lunch program and partner church evening meals, distributes 20,000 carts of supplemental food and does more than 100 community food distributions outside that serve an additional 20,000-plus households, Russell said.
SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said selling the property to God’s Food Pantry at a reduced price reflects SPEDA’s continued effort to improve the quality of life for every Pulaski Countian through a holistic approach to economic development.
“At SPEDA, we believe in marching together toward a common goal of making Somerset-Pulaski County the best it can be for our citizens and business community,” Girdler said. “We are a part of and a driving force behind something bigger than ourselves. We care about our community and our neighbors, and being able to help God’s Food Pantry expand affordably will have an exponential impact on people in Somerset and Pulaski County. Through this, we are living up to our motto of making business about people, and that means people from all walks of life.”
The Palm Beach Company facility was built in 1946 by Somerset Industries, a corporation formed by local residents interested in the development of their community. Palm Beach produced men’s clothing and was the first opportunity for women to work in Pulaski County, as women manned almost all of the sewing machines.
Somerset-Pulaski County’s former economic development foundation took ownership of the Bourne Avenue building when Palm Beach Company ceased operations in Somerset several years ago. The property was transferred to SPEDA when the old foundation dissolved. Soon after, SPEDA began donating storage space in the facility to God’s Food Pantry, beginning a conversation and relationship that led to the recent purchase, Girdler said.
“The facility for a long time had not been utilized to its fullest potential and had not been adequately maintained nor improved since the departure of Palm Beach,” Girdler said. “I am so grateful we were able to help God’s Food Pantry in this way. The building will most certainly reach its fullest potential now by helping people in need in our community.”
God’s Food Pantry board president Jeremy Cole said the building’s purchase is an answer to prayer.
“The board of God’s Food Pantry has continually been praying for an opportunity to expand our ministry in our community,” Cole said. “God has provided us this opportunity through the purchase of this property. Speaking on behalf of the board of trustees, I can say that we are overwhelmed with this blessing and excited about seeing what God has planned for the future of this ministry and its impact in our community.”
Russell said God’s Food Pantry exists today only because several people with caring hearts made their dreams of helping Pulaski County families in need a reality 38 years ago. Now the organization wants to pay that forward, she said.
“With that same heart, we are now putting the building blocks in place for the next 38 years and beyond,” Russell said. “We are so thankful for our past and present relationship with SPEDA and for the opportunity to purchase this property. Their encouragement and support and faith in our abilities have been a driving force in moving this forward and Pulaski County families will be better served for decades to come because of it.”