WEST FARGO, ND — On Thursday, June 24, Gate City Bank made a gift of over $120,000 to transform a pop-up food pantry in West Fargo into a permanent hunger-relief program — a first-of-its-kind transformation in North Dakota.
Named West Fargo Eats., this permanent solution is the innovative result of a unique, strategic collaboration between YWCA Cass Clay, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Great Plains Food Bank and now Gate City Bank to form the new Food Share Alliance in West Fargo – a first in this community.
“Over the past few years when working with Lutheran Church of the Cross to build Grace Garden: A YWCA Supported Residence, together we identified areas in which we could continue to serve our neighbors in need, and that is when food insecurity was identified,” says Erin Prochnow, YWCA Cass Clay CEO. “As a result of COVID-19, we expedited the planning into action and started the ‘West Fargo Eats Pop-Up Food Pantry’ in May 2020, with the Great Plains Food Bank joining us in this effort.”
The pop-up pantry, held in the church parking lot out of the back of a refrigerated truck, fed 3,700 individuals with 55,000 pounds of food during the summer of 2020. One Friday alone in May 2021, the pop-up served 613 individuals in 90 minutes.
“The need was even more significant than we anticipated,” says Rev. Joel Baranko, Lead Pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross (LCC), a 2,100-member congregation located in West Fargo. “While we knew our efforts were helping, we believed an even greater impact could be made if we offered a permanent solution.”
The group worked together to identify how to make this “pop up to permanent” vision a reality and approached Gate City Bank, a shared, long-term supporter, to join them.
“Sadly, we know that for many of our neighbors and their families, a better way of life begins simply by receiving one of the most basic human needs – food,” says Kevin Hanson, Gate City Bank, President & CEO. “We’ve chosen to support West Fargo Eats. and the Food Share Alliance financially and through team member volunteer hours, because working together, this effort will make a generational impact in this community.”
The gift of over $120,000 received this week from Gate City Bank fully funds renovation of an LCC garage into a permanent food relief pantry, slated to open Fall 2021.
“One in six people experience food insecurity in Cass County and Clay County,” says Melissa Sobolik, Great Plains Food Bank, President. “As we work to create hunger-free communities in North Dakota, we are incredibly thankful to see this pop-up pantry transformed into a permanent food relief solution.”
To be operated entirely by volunteers from the Food Share Alliance partners, West Fargo Eats. will offer a shopping-style experience open on a consistent schedule, bringing empowerment, respect and dignity to individuals and families experiencing temporary food insecurity. Typical food relief received will be three days’ worth of canned goods, cereal, rice, noodles, bread, dairy products and protein/meat. Hygiene items will also be offered.
Each organization is contributing essential components to the new permanent program.
“Creating meaningful change in a community cannot be done by any one organization alone,” says Prochnow. “Sustainable change is possible when the know-how of YWCA and Great Plains Food Bank, the heart of LCC’s faith community, and the mission and resources of Gate City Bank come together.”
About Gate City Bank
A $2.8 billion mutual bank founded in 1923, Gate City Bank is the region’s leading financial institution, as well as the #1 mortgage lender in North Dakota. The Bank employs more than 735 team members at 43 locations in 22 communities across North Dakota and central Minnesota. The Bank believes in creating a better way of life for customers, communities and team members, and it has contributed $30.6 million in philanthropic giving and 250,000 hours of team volunteering since 2003. Additionally, Gate City Bank has been named one of the “50 Best Places to Work” seven years in a row by Prairie Business magazine.