Lowville Food Pantry eligible for $25,000 through online contest

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LOWVILLE — The Lowville Food Pantry in the next couple of weeks will be asking its “neighbors” to help secure $25,000 for building rehabilitation through a State Farm grant program.

“That’s a big number when you’re a small organization,” pantry CEO Daniel R. Taylor said.

Pantry officials were recently notified that their application was selected as one of 200 finalists in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program, now in its sixth year. A total of 2,000 applications from throughout the country were considered.

During a 10-day period from midnight Wednesday through 11:59 p.m. Aug. 25, people may vote up to 10 times per day for a cause or causes they support among the 200 projects, and the top 40 vote-getters will each receive $25,000. Winners will be announced on Good Neighbor Day, Sept. 28.

Those wishing to support the Lowville Food Pantry project will be able to go directly to its project page at http://wdt.me/ytrnfv, beginning Wednesday; for now, the link connects to the program’s home page and a countdown until voting begins.

Mr. Taylor — whose organization submitted a short essay and three photos after learning of the contest through an email from local State Farm agent Thomas J. Spaulding — said pantry officials were very surprised to be selected as a finalist and making it in the top 40 would obviously be an even more exciting surprise. “All we can do is give it our best shot,” he said.

The local pantry has already posted information about the contest on its Facebook page, and officials plan to continue spreading the word over the next few days by word of mouth, telephone calls, emails and additional social media blasts.

“You can’t really underestimate the power of social media,” Mr. Spaulding said.

That effort could garner votes from all over the nation and world, but one of the keys will be to get supporters to vote throughout the 10-day period and not lose interest after a day or so, he said.

“What a great thing for the community if we pull this off,” Mr. Spaulding said.

The agent, who has been in business here for three years, added that Neighborhood Assist is “reflective of State Farm wanting to give back,” and the insurance company offers a number of other programs that can also benefit organizations if they take time to apply.

The Lowville Food Pantry, which currently leases a 2,800-square-foot building at 7646 Forest Ave., last year secured the former AMF mill property at 5502 Trinity Ave. from the bowling pin manufacturer in hopes of ultimately redeveloping it to house a more spacious pantry and cover other community needs.

If the pantry finishes in the top 40 of the nationwide contest, the money will be used to rehabilitate an old, two-story building at the rear of the property that is being used by the Lewis County Christmas Sharing and Santa for Seniors programs, as well as for excess food storage and some meetings, Mr. Taylor said.

“It will help pay for all the things that are needed to bring the building up to code,” he said.

Plans are to switch the furnace from oil to natural gas to save money on heating, change the building from three-phase industrial to commercial power to reduce electricity costs, replace the front door, add storm windows and install new insulation, Mr. Taylor said. “The insulation in the walls has sunk to the bottom, so it’s not doing much,” he said.

The pantry director added that the $25,000, if awarded, will be “money we don’t have to take out of our food accounts or anything to do necessary repairs on the building.”

Ironically enough, Mr. Taylor said his birthday happens to fall on Aug. 25, the final day of voting. “Hopefully, this will be a nice birthday present for me,” he said.

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