Photo by Justin Criado

From L to R: Dena Wilson of Walmart, NCM director Jay Poliziani, food pantry advisor Darlene Rushing and Mike Smith of Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania cut the ribbon at an event Oct. 19 to showcase the food pantry renovations.

By Justin Criado

With the holiday season approaching fast, Northside Common Ministries received an early gift in the form of a grant and donations to help renovate the facilities’ food pantry.

“NCM’s Food Pantry is extremely important to so many food insecure individuals in the Northside area,” Jay Poliziani, NCM director, said. “These improvements were greatly needed and will allow more people to use the Pantry without difficulties.”

The Walmart Foundation provided a $25,000 grant while a crowdfunding campaign and various donations collected over $12,000 additionally for improvements which included handicap accessible ramps, new shopping carts, and new shelving and tables.

An event was held Oct. 19 to show-off the new space. Food pantry advisor Darlene Rushing explained that the months leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest, given patrons are allowed to use the pantry once a month and are provided a week of food during the visit.

“People like to plan ahead and grab some things for the next month, and sometimes we’ll have people waiting out in the cold for an hour or more before they can get in,” Rushing explained.

The pantry typically served four people at a time, but can now accommodate up to eight.

“(The food pantry) is so important to so many people,” Poliziani said. “(The renovations) will allow us to double the number of people we can serve at one time.”

Mike Smith, President/CEO of Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania; Dena Wilson, Regional General Manager, Walmart; and NorthSide/NorthShore Chamber of Commerce executive director Robin Rosemary Miller were also on hand to view the space.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris provided a grant for an additional handicap ramp that will be installed sometime in the upcoming months after the holiday season, according to Poliziani.