De De Flounlacker, the Executive Director of Manna Food Pantries, stood outside the food bank's flooded headquarters with a fold up table, a pot of coffee and a box of donuts on April 30, 2014. Their offices were flooded and unsafe, they had lost over three quarters of their inventory and their operations had been shut down indefinitely. "Here in our main pantry, it wouldn't be unusual to see 100 plus people receiving food every day. And that's all shut down right now. I'm hoping that one of the things that will come (out of this) is finding a new location because this is our second flood in less than two years."
Now, nearly two years later, Manna Food Pantries has closed on a new location. "We are moving to 3030 North E Street (in Pensacola), that's the old site of the Pensacola Mill Supply building." Flounlacker says the move will keep Manna centrally located and easily accessible by public transportation. It's located between two bus lines and is just a few blocks from the bus terminal. the site is also less than two miles from Manna's present location. "For us, we wanted to stay somewhere near (our present location)...because so many of the folks that we help tend to come from this area. I had a lot of folks tell me I was looking for a unicorn when I told then what we needed in a building. But we have found out unicorn."
After the flood in April of 2014, it took Manna a few months to rebuild their inventory, move into temporary offices and get operations going again. From there, the search for a new location began. "None of us anticipated, I think, it taking this long." Flounlacker says finding the right place and the right location and the right size for a new building made the search longer. "We didn't want to rush in and make a decision just so we could and move. The other part is we take very seriously the donors who support us and take very seriously that we are spending their money wisely. " She says they had looked over 30 properties before making this decision.
There have been some false starts. In the fall of 2014 Manna purchased a 4 and a half acre property from the Escambia County School District near North Hayne and Tarragona streets in Pensacola. But plans to build on that site fell through and the land is back on the market. De De Flounlacker says those issues will not be repeated at the new location. She says the old Pensacola Mill Supply building has a lot of warehouse space that is ideal for storing nonperishable food. The rest of the building needs some work. "We have to put on a new roof. There is a lot of interior work that needs to be done." A sprinkler system also needs to be installed in the building. "We're pretty simple and grassroots. We're not looking to create a palace. But we do want to be sure we create a place that people can feel safe and be proud of."
De De Flounlacker says the renovations to the building will begin shortly. A capital campaign to raise addition funds for the new site has begun and will be ramping up in the coming weeks. And she has one final bit of news. "I am happy to tell you it is NOT in a flood zone!"
Manna Food Pantries should be moving into their new location on E Street in Pensacola early in 2017.