Construction progressing at Midwest Food Bank

Zach Berg TimesNewspapers
Volunteer Ralph Garberg of Morton seals ducts for air conditioning at the Morton Midwest Food Bank at 700 Erie Ave.

Near the end of Erie Avenue in Morton stands a large industrial building with no large business signs or logos, but has papers taped to doors to warn of construction.

This 10-year-old building is the new home of Morton’s Midwest Food Bank.

Once inside, it is apparent that the building is going over a total remodel, and with the building’s large size, a very sizeable remodel.

“We have 15,000 square feet for storage and packaging,” Bart Rinkenberger of the Midwest Food Bank said. “Three-thousand square feet are for offices.”

Right now, the building looks like a shell, with a large collection of mostly empty racks filling a majority of the building while under construction offices fill a smaller area.

“It took awhile, we closed on it at the end of last October, not even a year ago,” Rinkenberger said.

When the food bank is up and running at full capacity sometime between fall and the end of the year, the food bank will house multiple charitable endeavors.

“We have three things we want to accomplish, to have in the building. One, we want to have the right amount of racking inside to store product,” Rinkenberger said. “Two, have a machine to make and package Tender Mercies in the building. Three, have a volunteer area for labeling, sorting and other things.”

Tender Mercies is the name of a small 10.5 ounce bag of dried rice, beans, chicken and vitamins that can feed a family of four with simply five cups of water. It is given out for free and, in the near future, will be packaged in the food bank.

The building will house a large 23-foot tall machine that will package bags of Tender Mercies inside the food bank, along with offices to organize and run other charitable events.

The more impressive feat is the fact that most of the building has been filled, fixed and furnished by donations and volunteers.

In fact, the people in charge of getting the food bank up and running are volunteers themselves; Rinkenberger’s day job is at Lighthouse GMC in Morton.

“We’ve had tons of different volunteers. The number of businesses and donors that have helped are countless,” Rinkenberger said. “We want to give God all the credit.”

The latest estimate from the Midwest Food Bank is that they’ve had about 1,500 volunteer hours already working on the building and the countless things needed for its renovation.

From the donated heating and air conditioning to lighting, the building was in need of a lot. Much of the furnishing it received came at very little to no cost to the food bank.

“We had 100 yards of concrete laid down for free by contractors,” Billy Daniel of Billy Daniel Excavating, said.

“The bathroom and storm shelter was built by 12 bricklayers on a Saturday,” Daniel said. “For the roof, the roofer let volunteers work with him to help keep the cost down.”

Still, even with all the free material and free work, the needs of the Midwest Food Bank exceed what they can get for free.

“There’s still definitely a need for financial help,” Rinkenberger said.

“If anyone wants to help, they can always come down here and see for themselves. There’s usually always someone here,” Rinkenberg said. “They can just call me, too.”

In order to reach out to as many people as possible, they have also created a Midwest Food Bank-Morton Division Facebook page where people can see pictures of what’s going on with the building and even be notified when volunteer help is needed.