Kathye Kilgore is looking forward to no longer having to pull rabbits out of hats.
That's how the executive director of Second Harvest Tri-Cities describes operating a consolidation center for area food banks with no freezer and a cooler smaller than one at a McDonald's.
More than 100 people attended Second Harvest Tri-Cities' ceremonial ground-breaking Monday for the nonprofit's$1.7 million distribution center in Pasco.
It should open in September at 5825 Burlington St.
The increasing requests for food in the Tri-Cities makes the expansion necessary to continue meeting that need, Kilgore said. Demand for help is up about 5 percent to 7 percent from last year, and it continues to climb.
And as it climbs, it becomes more difficult to get donations, she said.
Last year, Second Harvest Tri-Cities distributed about 5.5 million pounds of food to area food banks. Kilgore expects that amount to reach more than 7 million pounds by 2018.
"Usage is up in numbers that I couldn't have imagined when I started here in 2004," Kilgore said.
Most of the donated available food is perishable, such as fruits and vegetables, Kilgore said. Unlike Second Harvest Tri-Cities' current building, the new facility will allow the nonprofit to store the food for a couple of days until food banks can accept it.
Last summer, Second Harvest Tri-Cities rented a refrigerated trailer and parked it next to its warehouse so it could accept donated perishable food when it was offered, Kilgore said.
"When there are hungry people, the last thing you want to do is turn down a donation," she said. "And you don't want to take the donation and have it spoil."
The new distribution center will help agencies such as the Tri-Cities Food Banks better manage the food they receive from Second Harvest Tri-Cities, said John Neill, Tri-Cities Food Banks executive director. Refrigeration space at the Kennewick, Richland and Benton City food banks isn't designed for long-term storage, he said.
Having Second Harvest Tri-Cities be able to hold onto perishable food donations longer will mean Tri-Cities Food Banks and other agencies can come get the food when they really need it, Neill said.
"It will just make inventory management better for everybody," he said.
The 14,000-square-foot new distribution center will offer triple the space that Second Harvest Tri-Cities now has in its leased building in Kennewick, Kilgore said.
The new building will include a 2,160-square-foot cooler and a 2,081-square-foot freezer. Dry storage space will be at about 5,320 square feet.
And the nonprofit will have a dedicated sorting room for volunteers to work, rather than making space in the current storage room, Kilgore said.
There also is space on the property to expand the building to about 40,300 square feet, adding more cooler space and dry storage.
So far, Second Harvest Tri-Cities has received about one-third of the $1.7 million needed in in-kind donations, including all the labor, Kilgore said.
At last count, 12 labor unions who represent Tri-City building and construction workers have agreed to donate labor to build the new distribution center, said Tom McMahon, assistant business manager in Kennewick for IBEW Local 77, which represents utility workers.
The unions wanted to give back to the community as they did when they volunteered to build Hospice at the Chaplaincy in Kennewick, said McMahon, who is a board member for Second Harvest Tri-Cities' advisory board and capital campaign.
Paul Shelton, president of Construction Management & Forensics of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, is the project manager for the new building and will work with the unions, Kilgore said.
Now, Kilgore said she is seeking donations or discounts on the materials needed for the distribution center, including sheet rock, doors, doorknobs and light fixtures.
About $300,000 to $500,000 cash has been donated for the building, she said.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com