Second Harvest officials are about two weeks away from opening a new distribution center that will almost double the nonprofit's capacity to provide food to needy Mid-Columbians.
Officials from the nonprofit, plus advocates and the volunteers who helped build the 14,000-square-foot distribution center, gathered Friday in Pasco for a ribbon-cutting and celebration of their accomplishment.
Second Harvest Northwest President & CEO Jason Clark said he was particularly proud because the project was built entirely by donated labor from local trade union members, and about half of the $2.9 million cost was covered through donations of materials and services.
"I don't know the last time you heard of a community barn-raising, but this is it right behind us," Clark said at the ribbon-cutting Friday.
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The new distribution center is in the Pasco Processing Center industrial park off Highway 395 and Foster Wells Road, a Port of Pasco development specially designed for food processing facilities.
Second Harvest broke ground in April and built the project using 9,000 hours of volunteer labor, Clark said.
B.C. Smith, vice president of the Central Washington Building Trades Council, said he was amazed to see how quickly the project was built.
"Projects like this are done all the time in six or eight months, but how often are they done with almost 100 percent volunteers?" Smith said. "This is a great thing for the community."
The new center is 9,000 square feet larger than Second Harvest's existing Kennewick location -- and adds 2,000 square feet of cooler space and 2,000 square feet of freezer space, so that the nonprofit can store and distribute more perishable items such as milk, eggs, meat and fresh produce that are the foundations of a nutritional diet.
The building still needs some finishing touches, but Second Harvest officials said they hope to have it operating within the next two weeks.
John Neill, director of Tri-Cities Food Banks, told the Herald that the cold storage space is especially important because it means area food banks can expect to get more of those perishable staples when they're needed.
"I'm really impressed by how much storage they have," Neill said while touring the Pasco distribution center. "This will really help us."
Clark said about 70 percent of the food Second Harvest distributes is perishable, so having more cold storage space was crucial for serving the region.
"We really have to have that infrastructure," he said.
The building also includes a mural painted by Brent Wood, 22, of Moses Lake, who is in the painting program at Columbia Basin Job Corps.
Wood volunteered to paint the mural, which depicts the terrain of Central Washington -- from the mountains to the river -- and the agriculture that puts food on Mid-Columbians' tables.
Wood said the latter is what Second Harvest is all about.
"It's really awesome," he said.