Due to a sudden shortage in available parking spaces, the Bonney Lake Food Bank is again considering moving somewhere else in town.
On July 7, the city took control of half of the gravel lot behind the food bank, which has been used for staging clients for the food bank and vehicle storage for East Pierce Fire and Rescue, the Bonney Lake Police Department and the city.
Half of the lot will now be used for construction equipment storage during the 186th Street improvements project, crowding fire department, police department and city vehicles closer together, leaving little room for food bank clients.
Stew Bowen, the director of the Bonney Lake Food Bank, often directed clients to that space to wait while his volunteers were busy helping others. The loss of the gravel lot cut available parking space for food bank clients at least by half. Bowen had to move some of the food bank’s storage containers off the lot too, putting everything right next to the food bank building.
According to Senior Planner Jason Sullivan, the city approached East Pierce about letting the food bank use the department’s property in the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Drive and Main Street East while the gravel lot is being repurposed.
Fire Chief Bud Backer said he will be proposing this option to the Fire Commission at the July 19 regularly scheduled meeting.
Sullivan said once the 186th Street improvements are finished, the gravel lot will become available to the food bank once again.
“It’s a temporary flip-flop of stuff,” Sullivan said.
But even though this situation is temporary and there’s a Plan B in place, the loss of the parking and storage space, even for just a couple weeks, has got Bowen thinking about the future of the food bank and is concerned that he will need a bigger space sooner rather than later.
“We’re trying to put 25 pounds of sugar in a five pound bag,” he said. “We need a bigger bag.”
Around this time last year, Bowen approached the City Council to ask for its help in moving to a larger space, since the food bank is reaching max capacity.
According to Bowen, the food bank served roughly 28,000 people during the food bank’s 2013 fiscal year.
That number has jumped to 49,000 during the food bank’s 2015 fiscal year, serving an average of 4,400 individuals every month.
Bowen’s plan in 2015 was to bring in two buildings that were donated to the food bank and set them up in the same gravel lot now temporarily unavailable to the food bank.
Although the buildings were compliant with city code, they were not up to the city’s downtown design standards.
Bowen went to the council on May 26 to ask them to waive the downtown building standards, as it would have been too expensive for the food bank to make those buildings compliant, he said.
Now, Bowen is looking at the old Lumbermens building on SR 410 close to Bowen Auto on the east side of the city.
“It isn’t a prime location, but it would be adequate,” Bowen said. “We need to find a building that has ample space… a minimum of 7,000 square feet, plus packing and room to grow.”
Bowen said he’s inquired about purchasing the building, but hasn’t received a reply.
Another option the food bank is looking at is a church building on 214th, but Bowen said the asking price for that building is outside the food bank’s affordable range.
Bowen is looking for larger buildings because he wants to make the future site of the food bank more like a community resource center by teaming up with other non-profits in the area. This way, residents can not only receive food, but pro-bono services like health care, dental care and legal advice in one location, he said.
There’s still much work to be done if the food bank wants to move, including finding the man-power and money, but Bowen said he has faith in the community when it comes to finding help.
“Whenever I ask for help, our neighbors have stepped up and helped us,” he said. “It really touches your heart.”