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South Portland Food Cupboard future secure, location still in question

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South Portland Food Cupboard future secure, location still in question

SOUTH PORTLAND — Clients of the South Portland Food Cupboard can breath a little easier about its future, even while uncertainty persists about where the food pantry will operate.

Sybil Riemensnider, executive director of the pantry, confirmed last week that the clearinghouse, lodged in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church at 161 Main St. since 2001, could move to 130 Thadeus St. in late summer.

Or it could remain in the basement, depending on who buys the 70-year-old church.

"We are not in danger of being kicked out," Riemensnider said at the pantry on June 27.

Monsignor Michael Henchal, who oversees the parish cluster of St. John the Evangelist and Holy Cross Church in South Portland, St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough and St. Bartholomew's Church in Cape Elizabeth, confirmed there are two potential buyers for the church.

Saturday masses will end around Labor Day weekend, Henchal said, but a sale of the church is not imminent.

"We couldn't sell this church today if someone came in with a check for $1 million," Henchal said. "There are a whole lot of other things that have to happen."

Henchal said he hoped any sale will be completed before winter to eliminate the need to pay to heat the building.

With declining attendance and increasing expenses, the future of St. John the Evangelist and two adjoining buildings – and that of the food pantry – came into question about six months ago.

Assured the pantry could stay through at least the end of June, Reimensnider and her board of directors began looking for a building in the city with at least 4,000 square feet of space, bathrooms, and compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

Riemensnider said the Thadeus Street building, actually two adjoining warehouses, was made available early in the search by parishioner and board member Mark Duvall.

The building is farther off the beaten track than the church, tucked into an area near Cash Corner and the intersection of Broadway and Evans Street.

Riemensnider said there would be more storage space, and the service area for clients can be kept separate. The van used to pick up food donations and deliver to some clients could also be pulled inside for loading and unloading.

Demand for pantry services has increased this year, Riemensnider said: 49 new families enrolled in May. Clients earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level can receive a week's worth of food once a month.

About 65 percent of pantry clients live in South Portland.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.