Food bank celebrates new space

In February 1982, Mike Firmin started the Golden Harvest Food Bank in borrowed space in Augusta’s Olde Town with 50 pounds of donated chocolate bars and some Italian salad dressing and went on to provide 167,000 meals.

 In 2023, it will provide 12 million meals for people living in 25 Georgia and South Carolina counties.

The scripture wall inside the Golden Harvest Food Bank’s newly renovated Commerce Drive facility. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

“This is beyond my imagination,” said Firmin, who led the food bank for 20 years. He returned to the Commerce Drive location Aug. 29 to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renovated and expanded volunteer and administration center.

The project has been about two years in the making, according to president and CEO Amy Breitmann. It’s the first phase of upgrades to the facilities.

 When people enter the building, they immediately see the statement that serves as the agency’s foundation. “For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35)

Previous article: Community leaders learn about food bank’s mission

The visitors’ center, which features the Knox atrium, has several wall graphics that include the organization’s timeline as well as a letter from Firmin. Through one of the windows, people can peer into the warehouse.               

The renovations also include a volunteer packing and sorting area as well as increased office and conference room space.

Firmin wasn’t the only one from the food bank’s earlier years who turned out for the ceremony. Two of his former employees, Ann Runnels, who was in charge of food reclamation, and Marsha Boasso, who was the organization’s first volunteer coordinator, greeted their former boss with big smiles.

Boasso said she was amazed with how many people the food bank was feeding.

Previous article: Food bank reaches 300 million meals served

“When she (Breitmann) said those numbers, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “But it doesn’t surprise me. People don’t realize that everybody is strapped these days.”

Another project at the food bank will be across the street from the administrative offices. It will be a produce reclamation area. A 1965 building with faulty plumbing and other issues that come with an aging space was razed to make way for the new facility.

The view of the Golden Harvest Food Bank’s warehouse from inside the second floor of the newly created volunteer and adminstrative center. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

When completed (projections are for spring 2024) it will increase produce distribution by 200%, Breitmann said.

“I love what’s going to happen across the street as well — the healthy food that’s going to go out,” said Firmin. “That’s the best.”

Breitmann said they still need to raise some funds to complete the reclamation center. In partnership with the city of Augusta, the organization received a Department of Community Affairs grant for $3.7 million for the project. The total cost is $10.3 million and $8.5 million has been raised.

Despite the number of meals the organization provides, Breitmann said there is an 8.8 million meal gap. The needs continue to rise with inflation.

Previous article: Food bank breaks ground on new reclamation area

To learn more about the food bank, visit the website here.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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