Fairfield Food Pantry moving to bigger location, months after car crashed into its building

Fairfield Food Pantry co-manager Wayne Patten grabs a container of milk for a food pantry client. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/2016

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Fairfield Food Pantry co-manager Wayne Patten grabs a container of milk for a food pantry client. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/2016

For the first time in 21 years, the Fairfield Food Pantry will have a new home next month.

And Judy Dirksen, one of the co-founders of the pantry, said the May 3 accident where a vehicle crashed through the front wall may have been a sign that it was time to move.

“The accident did cause a lot of changes,” she said. “It did cause us some loss of service and a loss of space, and we thought it was just time to move on.”

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After Sept. 17, the pantry will close its doors at 1085 Magie Avenue in order to move to 78 Donald Drive and reopen a couple weeks later. The tentative reopening is scheduled for Oct. 1.

“It was disappointing,” said Howard Dirksen, who co-founded the pantry with his wife, on the decision to have to move. “We appreciate the Carito family for allowing us to having it at both locations (the annex and the main building on Magie Avenue), but accidents happen and that’s what happened to us.”

Minutes before the Fairfield Food Pantry was set to close on May 3, a patron accidentally drove a vehicle through the front window and facade and destroyed the front counter. Workers were behind the counter, and there were no customers inside at the time of the accident. The accident forced the pantry’s board to close for about a week and re-open in its storage area known as the annex building — the original pantry location when it opened on Magie 21 years ago.

While the accident wasn’t the initial reason the board decided to look for a new location, the resulting delays in getting the building ready forced that decision, said the Dirksens. The board decided in August to make the move, they said.

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And they were ready for more space, Howard Dirksen said.

“We’re getting to the point of where we needed to find a new location,” he said. “We’re looking toward the future to continue to serve those in need.”

The food pantry serves as many as 700 people per month in Fairfield and Fairfield Twp., and in parts of Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood and Ross Twp. Howard Dirksen said to be able to continue to serve the growing clientele, a new space was necessary.

The Donald Drive location was one of nearly a dozen locations pantry board members toured before deciding on the 2,200-square-foot spot, which is nearly 1,000 square feet more than the current building. While it will be a couple weeks between the closing and re-opening, Judy Dirksen said she hopes their clients understand.

“It is (a long time for clients) and that’s why we’re pushing to get it done as soon as possible,” she said. “If by chance we can open it up sooner, we will. But right now … there’s just a lot of logistical stuff to be done.”

The pantry’s operational costs will increase with rent, as well as the amount of food that’s being donated and purchased. The board voted last year to give more food per month to the families.

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