The Voluntary Action Center provided 26,615 hot meals to Calhoun and Gordon County residents in 2018 through its Community Kitchen program. That number will expand considerably following a renovation project set to begin shortly after the Christmas holiday.
Executive Director Stacy Long said the renovation will allow the VAC to expand its current feeding program to include hot meals for both lunch and dinner. Currently, the program only offers hot lunches.
“The existing kitchen caters primarily to adults because kids are in school during the day and usually eat free or reduced lunches at school. We do see a significant number of kids come and eat with us when school is out during the summer,” Long said. “Adding the dinner program will allow us to continue serving adults but will also provide a place for students and younger kids to come and eat dinner. They’ll be guaranteed three hot meals a day.”
Paid for entirely by gifted monies and donations from community members and businesses, the renovation will center on expanding the VAC’s existing kitchen.
The breezeway in between the two buildings currently on site will be closed in and a serving window will be added onto the back of the existing kitchen. The current women’s bathroom will be converted into a dining room bathroom, and the current dining room will be used to house all refrigeration. The training room will be turned into a dining room capable of seating 80 diners at a time. New double-pane, tinted windows will also be added in the kitchen and thrift store, an additional fridge and freezer will be brought in for storage, and new shelves and food prep tables will be constructed.
Laundry and shower facilities will close for a few days and to-go plates may be handed out in the kitchen if needed during completion of the project, but Long said doors to the VAC will remain open as work is completed.
Dinner will be phased in slowly after completion of renovations, with warm meals first served on Wednesdays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The goal is to add additional days and serving times until hot dinners are being served five days a week in the kitchen.
“We’re so excited about this. We’ve been discussing it for almost three years,” Long said. “It has taken a lot of planning and saving and coordinating to get to this point, but we are thrilled to offer what we do and to add to that when we can. I also want to thank all of the people who’ve donated and put money toward making this possible. It makes such a big difference.”
Specifically, Long thanked America’s Home Place for a recent $5,000 contribution and AdventHealth Gordon for a $3,500 donation. She also thanked the Calhoun Women’s Club, which selected the VAC to be the recipient of this year’s Sequoyah Ball funds. The ball is an annual event that has raised more than $700,000 for agencies and institutions in Calhoun and Gordon County since 1988.
“Anyone else who would like to donate to the project absolutely can,” she said. “They can either go through the website and use PayPal or they can come see us in person. We accept cash or card donations.”