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Food pantry seeks land to build home

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April Baker, right, executive director of A Touch of the Father's Love Ministry and Food Pantry, holds the hand of Ruby Davis as they chat and walk to Davis’ vehicle Wednesday during food distribution at the pantry in Spring Hope.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A ministry and food pantry presently operating in a former supermarket in Spring Hope could be relocating to a permanent home if a person, business or corporation can be found to donate land.

April Baker, executive director of A Touch of the Father’s Love, told the Telegram a businessman has offered to design and construct a building, provided she and her team secure the site. Baker declined to provide the man's identity, other than to say he is from Tennessee.

"We are good friends," Baker said, noting the man was in the area earlier this month.

"And he has been knowing me and this ministry for many years now," Baker said. "So he has stepped up and said that God has been blessing him. He'd like to bless us back with a building."

As for the site, she said, "We need about three to five acres — five would be preferable."

She said she and her team need at least three acres to accommodate parking and would like for the site to be on a farm so the ministry does not bother anyone.

As for the size of the building, she said, "He and I are talking about it being around 16,000-17,000 square feet."

"He's thinking a metal building would be best," she said, noting she agrees.

She said after she and her team secure a site, the man is going to come from the Volunteer State and work together to start the blueprint process.

Efforts to secure a permanent home for A Touch of the Father's Love have been an ongoing story.

Baker, who established the nonprofit in 2012, was a single mother of two children and at one point she was receiving food stamps to help make ends meet.

A Touch of the Father's Love had been operating in approximately 2,000 square feet of space in a building in the 200 block of West Battleboro Avenue in Battleboro.

She said the landlord had provided the space rent free but said the landlord needed the building back for another use.

She and her team appeared to have found a possible future location nearly 8,000 square feet in size and just a few miles away along U.S. 301.

The problem, she had said, was the list price was approximately $290,000 and had said efforts to raise funds via an online capital campaign resulted in securing approximately $41,000.

In March, Baker told the Telegram A Touch of the Father’s Love was hopefully going to relocate to Spring Hope to space in what was once part of the Lowes Foods chain.

That location is 28,000 square feet and in the 500 block of East Nash Street/Alternate U.S. 64.

More recently, Baker told the Telegram the lease agreement with the landlord on the location in Spring Hope expires in March 2020, meaning she and her team are facing a time crunch to find a new location and get the new building constructed.

Baker made clear she is not disappointed with the present location, noting, "We have filled this 28,000 square feet up pretty good."

The problem, Baker said, is the space is a bit too big and the location is in an old building.

The ministry is in space that is part of a one-bustling shopping plaza. Baker said if the ministry wanted to own the space, the entire plaza would have to be bought from the owner lock, stock and barrel. She said the ministry does not have that kind of financial resources to make a purchase.

Meantime, she said, "We are definitely getting the word out" about the need for a permanent site.

A Touch of the Father's Love is a busy operation, with a team of approximately 12-15 volunteers, including Baker, and all proceeds going to the ministry.

Baker said the ministry has distributed approximately a million pounds of food each year the past couple of years. She said the ministry in 2018 served 81,180 people.

A Touch of the Father's Love is a partner with the Raleigh-based Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in processing the paperwork of people in need.

"I've not had anyone not qualify" for food, Baker said, noting there may have been one exception during the past seven years.

"And we had other food we can bless them with, so no one got turned away," she said.

The service hours for food distribution are from 9-10 a.m. on Wednesdays and from 9-11 a.m. on Saturdays.

To follow the ministry on the Internet, go to http://atouchofthefatherslove.org/.