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    Pantry finds new location

    The Religious Community Services Inc. Food Pantry plans to build a new two-story facility on Hart Street.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 6, 2003


    CLEARWATER -- A year after a forced move into temporary quarters, the Religious Community Services Inc. Food Pantry has found a permanent home.

    In about 18 months, if all goes as planned, the food pantry will move to a new two-story building downtown at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Hart Street.

    "We really need to be in a place that we can call our own so we don't have to do this again," food pantry director Jamia Austin said Wednesday. "It's been a long time coming."

    RCS has a contract on a vacant one-acre property at 405 Hart, roughly 1 mile from its current location at 700 Druid Road, according to spokeswoman Stephany Dawson.

    The new location is ideal, she said, because it will allow the pantry to stay close to bus lines and clients. It is close to other social service organizations such as the Health Department and the Turley Family Health Center.

    "It's got all the pieces that we needed for the puzzle," said Dawson. "We would own the property. We would never have to move again."

    In early 2002, the pantry moved to the Druid location, after the city decided to buy its longtime home on Ewing Avenue S from the Clearwater Housing Authority to make room for a new retention pond downtown.

    Dawson said the Hart Street sale is contingent on permit approvals from the city. Plans include a 10,000-square-foot metal building, with a stucco facade and administrative offices upstairs.

    The food pantry, which has struggled with more clients and shrinking donations since Sept. 11, 2001, will seek bank financing for the land, which was advertised at $200,000. Dawson said RCS will apply for grants to construct the new building, which she estimated at more than $500,000.

    "It wouldn't be like a warehouse look," said Dawson. "We're taking it piece by piece."

    -- Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com ">farrell@sptimes.com .

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