HARRISON — The Agnes M. Lindsay Trust has awarded a $25,000 grant to the Harrison Food Bank to assist with COVID-19 operations. With demand for support increasing and winter conditions already here, it is not a minute too soon, according to its founder and Operations Manager Sandy Swett.

The grant makes it possible for the food bank to place a 40-foot conex storage box in the parking lot, parallel to its existing cold storage unit, and build a roof over it so volunteers can load clients’ vehicles under cover in inclement weather.

Swett said the organization applied for the grant last fall but had to get approval from the Harrison Planning Board before it could move forward with its plans.

A $25K grant from the Agnes M. Lindsay Trust will improve parking lot flow and safety for the Harrison Food Bank. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

“The new set-up makes it possible for two lanes of vehicles to move through the parking lot at the same time,” Swett said. “When it snows or rains volunteers will be able to load food into the cars out of the weather. It will make things much safer.”

In addition, the new storage box will be insulated and outfitted with interior walls made of washable Melamine. A large doorway will be cut into the side with plastic insulating strips, allowing volunteers to take a break from the elements when they need to without having to dodge vehicles waiting their turn to be loaded. It will also hold portable heating and air-conditioning, not only to provide relief to workers but to improve food safety during days when it is extremely cold or hot.

“When it’s 90 degrees, food — produce like lettuce — doesn’t last long outside,” Swett explained. “The unit is climate controlled so shelf-life for distributed food is going to be improved.”

There will no longer be pallets and carts of food piled up on distribution day at the Harrison Food Bank. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Construction was under way immediately after the Planning Board gave its okay. Cliff Roderick, Inc. of Bridgton is overseeing the work.

“It’s a temporary improvement,” Swett continued. “To help get us through the rest of the COVID-19 period, however long that may be.

“We designed the system so that when it’s no longer needed we can re-use the materials for an addition onto the main building. We’ve delayed construction on that project for now.”

Swett expects the parking lot changes to be completed before the end of the year.

“It’s huge, getting our volunteers out of the snow, ice, rain and wind,” Swett said, noting that the food bank has been relying on canopies to provide cover for workers. Some have been destroyed by recent wind and rain storms, turning them from protective to dangerous.

Work to make two recently purchased box trucks road-worthy continues as well.

“Since we acquired them, there has been a recall on those trucks,” Swett said. “It’s actually a blessing that will save us money. Freightliner in Bangor has taken them both to be completely overhauled. And Town Fair Tire is going to put new tires on the trucks at wholesale.

“As soon we get them back, we will be equipped to do long-distance deliveries to pick-up sites for families in need, and be able to move more food in.”

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