A fire that consumed a 17-year-old food pantry last March 28 has sparked its founder's passion to rebuild a bigger and better facility coupled with a soup kitchen, too.
The Maricopa Pantry, a nonprofit that provides weekly meals to almost 1,200 families in Arizona, is determined to continue with its operations despite their great loss. The organization was founded originally as MVCC Foodbank by the Mountain View Community Church in 2004.
In 2015, Jim Shoaf and his wife, Alice, rescued MVCC Foodbank from its financial struggles. This gave birth to the Maricopa Pantry, which has grown as Pinal County's second-largest food bank. The organization distributed 3 million pounds of food last year.
CBN News explained that the organization lost almost 40,000 pounds of donated food--meat, produce, and canned food--when the drive-up food pantry was burned to ashes. The food pantry's storage container and six semi-trailers were fully consumed by the fire fueled by high winds.
Shoaf, now the Chief Executive Officer of Maricopa Pantry, told ABC 15 that they plan to replace the trailers with a warehouse, which will also be used as a soup kitchen to serve the needy.
"I know we can't replace what we lost but we're not done. We're going to rebuild. We're going to rebuild bigger and better than what we were," Shoaf said.
While Maricopa Pantry President Mike Connelly pointed out that the community relies on them for food. Connelly expressed concerns about what will happen if the community lost the food bank for good. He stressed that their area in Pinal County doesn't have much, calling it a "food desert." This is why they have decided to continue helping the people in their community but on a smaller scale while they accumulate funds in rebuilding what they lost.
In a Facebook post a day after the fire, Maricopa Pantry announced their great loss through the launch of a fundraiser to sustain their great need.
"As many already know, we had a fire at the food bank. The church building is still standing and relatively unscathed, but the equipment and storage facility for the food bank was a total loss. The wounds are still fresh, and the community's outpouring of love and prayers has been tremendous," Maricopa Pantry said.
"As the ashes settle and we better grasp the situation, we will understand more of our needs. In the meantime, we have created this fundraiser to allow you to help get our community's food bank back up and running. This is God's mission at His house. He saved His house, and the mission is still ours to continue," they added.
There are two fundraisers launched by Maricopa Pantry. One was through their Paypal account and another through GoFundMe, which has already exceeded its target goal of $25,000 in a span of a week. Thanks to an anonymous donor of $5,000 and 203 other benefactors who chipped in to raise $25,990 as of this article's writing.
In addition, Shoaf said St. Mary's Food Bank officials and other churches have already reached out to them in helping replace the food and for their needs. He emphasized that these mean a lot to them.
Meanwhile, local authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire. The massive fire began at noon. Connelly recounted that the fire has already spread to trailer 3 and trailer 2 by the time he got to the drive-up food pantry. By the time the volunteer fire department and community volunteers responded, all six trailers have been reduced to burned piles on the ground.
The fire also spread to the property next door, which belonged to homeowner Phil Pettes. The blaze forced Pettes to evacuate his property as it ignited his cars. Pettes recounted that everybody thought there was ammunition going off. He said he lost the cars and other stuff but pointed out these were replaceable. He was also grateful for being alive and that his house was not damaged at all.