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River City Food Bank opens door to new location

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Community leaders and supporters congregated at the corner of N and 27th streets to see the beginning stages of the new River City Food Bank. After a four-alarm fire destroyed the RCFB’s original location Oct. 21, the community immediately responded, and the Sutter Medical Center donated this space for the Food Bank to rebuild.

The blaze, determined as arson by the fire department, heavily damaged the building and destroyed about 10,000 pounds of food.

Though still a large empty room, save for a few hanging lights and fold-up tables, the new location promises to give clients a more comfortable space and volunteers a better ability to help the community, RCFB Executive Director Eileen Thomas said. Compared to the previous food bank location, the new spacious area will allow for additional privacy for clients and more room for donation storage.

The event “celebrate(s) moving out of a truck and into a real space,” Thomas said, pointing to the Goodwill truck parked across the street from which the RCFB has been operating for the past few weeks.

She told the crowd that building projects rarely go according to plan. “Whatever you do,” she said, “you double the cost and triple the time.” She apologized for the building not being ready, but said they expect to have the space filled and operable by the middle of next week.

A burnt and warped laptop was on display as a remnant of the October fire, which Thomas considered a powerful symbol of the RCFB’s rebuilding process, since every program and document on the hard-drive was able to be restored.

The crowd huddled around a podium while Thomas introduced key supporters of the Food Bank’s recovery, including Councilman Steve Cohn, RCFB Board President Susan Timmer and Sutter Health Sierra Region Director of Community and Government Relations Keri Thomas.

“It’s a day to recognize those who responded on the day of the fire and to thank the community,” 3fold Communications Director of Media Lesley Miller said. 3fold has helped the RCFB with marketing and outreach, and helped organize the morning’s debut of the new space.

Timmer began the presentation by thanking everyone for their support and saying she never expected to be board president of a food bank rebuilding from a fire. “It was hard to imagine how we’d ever get started again, but here we are,” she said.

Cohn thanked the Trinity Episcopal Church for its continued support of the RCFB.

“We have a commitment to make sure this fire is turned into something that really rises like a phoenix,” Cohn said, “and the city will do all it can to help.”

Helping the homeless and those in need has always been one of the main priorities of the mayor and the council, right up there with job creation, he said.

Keri Thomas spoke on behalf of Sutter Health.

“I’m really proud to be part of a business community that steps up in a time of crisis and need,” she said. “We understand that if people don’t have access to basic needs – food, shelter – they can’t live a healthy life.”

Other supporters included Ruland’s Used Office Furnishings, which was at the event bringing tables and furniture into the empty building; Borges Architectural Group helped coordinate permits; Western Health Advantage donated computers; CalTronics donated a fax machine and Downey Brand offered IT technical assistance.

Grant donations were given by Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente, Golden One Credit Union, Delta Dental and The Sacramento Bee.

The event was also a memorial for Mac, a well-loved cat who was lost in the fire. The food bank’s other cat, Cheese, was found safe and later given up for adoption.

The rebuilt River City Food Bank is located at the corner of N and 27th streets.

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