A volunteer sticks the wooden paddle in a quart of blue paint and swirls it around. Melanie Gray, director of Outreach and Mission for Historic Christ Church, says, "We did a lot of research on the color, and we learned blue calms people and suppresses the appetite."
Eleven volunteers from local churches are at Church of the Resurrection on Beauregard Street to refurbish a room that is about to become the first food pantry on the West Side of Alexandria.
Gray, who currently manages the "pop up grocery" food pantry at Christ Church says, "We're going to create a mini-store in this food desert. There is no grocery store you can walk to and until now, no food pantry."
Phyllis Johnson, the volunteer coordinator for the new West End pantry, says, "This is really exciting. We're going to create mini-aisles. Traffic flow will be important." She looks around the empty space. "I see it; don't you see it?" Johnson is a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Alexandria. "This is truly an ecumenical project."
The pantry is scheduled to be open on Mondays from 5-7 p.m. Gray says they will start up with food from a lot of different churches and contributions from ALIVE as well as "what is in the big white box at our church."
First step is to move cans of donated food off the shelves before the painting begins. Volunteers split up to paint the walls or the shelves, to move around the furniture or to build some new shelves out in the yard. Rebuilding Together organized this project and provided shelves, paint and an architectural design of the space by Ray Novitske.
The new pantry had been a preschool room and is located just down the hall from a small Ethiopian congregation located in Church of the Resurrection. Gray comments that sharing of space is a sign of the times where large properties sit unused. Gray talks about the need for the pantry, adding that they are seeing a lot of senior citizens and immigrants in the area.
Johnson explains that a lot of people are also being evicted and moving to the West End. The food pantry has been two years in the making since the publication of the report prepared for the Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network (ACOAN) in 2014 identifying widespread hunger in the City of Alexandria.