FACES Considering Move

Published 11:26 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

FARMVILLE — FACES, or Farmville Area Community Emergency Services, is considering a move from its Depot Street site and more than doubling its space inside the Southside Training Employment and Placement Services (STEPS) building off West Third Street.

“The reason we have not gotten a lease signed by FACES yet is they’re looking at [the] possibility of going to co-locate with STEPS out at their facility out by the industrial park,” Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates told Town Council members last week.  “So that’s kind of up in the air right now. They’re still trying to work through the details of it. So they appreciate everything that we’ve done, but they’re looking that as an option.”

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STEPS President and CEO Sharon Harrup confirmed that the organization has agreed to partner with FACES and work with FeedMore to do a distribution hub at the back part of the STEPS Centré.

“Nothing has been signed. Nothing has been … put in writing or anything like that,” Harrup told The Herald. “I think, really, we’re just waiting for the FACES board to make a final decision and then we’ll see how it goes. But … we are definitely at the table with FeedMore and FACES in this expansion.”

FeedMore agencies, which include FACES, are active throughout the region assisting children, families and seniors in need with nutritious food.

“We’ve been talking with both FeedMore and STEPS for maybe a year, and it’s still really in the tentative planning stages — it’s going to depend a lot on STEPS’ ability to renovate the building. So we’re not there yet and even if it succeeds — and I very much hope it does — it will be a couple of years before there’s any transition,” STEPS President Dr. Ellery Sedgwick told The Herald.

STEPS has been designated a community action agency for the region. Its initiative now, Harrup said, is to support local nonprofits that are already doing good work “and FACES is one of those that does a fabulous mission with their food distribution. So we know that there will more than likely not be a need for us to start a food pantry, but if we can be at the table to help stand them, maybe coordinate on some of their initiatives, co-locate in the STEPS Centré, that’s really what we’re looking to do to try to meet community needs on a broader base.”

STEPS, located in the former Craddock Terry manufacturing facility, has plenty of space, too, in the back part of the building outside of the area where STEPS Centré events are held. They have 25,000 to 28,000 available square feet.

“It would require some fairly significant renovations. It would need some roof work, I think we’re talking about constructing possibly a tractor-trailer type loading dock and then some restroom facilities in the back, but all of that I think could be garnered with both local, state and maybe even some federal grant funds and then donations from the community,” Harrup said. “So we’re pretty excited about it. It will put that building to a good use.”

FACES, located in the former Wilson Oil building on Depot Street, had hoped to substantially expand the current site, but with the building in a floodplain, that is cost prohibitive. On the table is a 10-year lease with the Town and Sedgwick said they “very much appreciate the Town’s allowing us to use that space. Gerry Spates and Council have been great. They have helped us out in a pinch several times and we appreciate them and we hope we’ll be there for awhile any way. It’s just a question of not knowing how long.”

Sedgwick added they don’t know whether the consortium is going to work out, but hope it will because it will allow them to expand both their local FACES operation and a regional operation. If they can get equipment and more space it will strengthen the local effort and provide a regional outreach.

FACES is one of the largest agencies of FeedMore and Sedgwick reported that they have asked them for assistance increasing regional distribution “and particularly increasing regional distribution of fresh produce and we see the potential for really upgrading the diet of the region by supplying a tremendous amount of produce. But you have to have the refrigeration capacity and then if the agencies themselves don’t have that capacity, you have to deliver it to them … .”

If the arrangement works, FeedMore has offered large freezer and refrigeration storage capacity, which would be used expand the local operation and for the two to become a food bank of sorts for an area spanning several counties.

FACES serves approximately 1,100 people every week locally and they see a real opportunity to increase that. The poverty rate is above 19 percent, or more than 5,000 people in Prince Edward County.

“We have made a point of being as up front with the Town as possible by letting them know everything that is going on. They had very kindly offered a 10-year lease, no … rental, and we just wanted to let them know that we may seek to transfer to the STEPS building if that whole thing goes through in a couple of years,” Sedgwick said.

They wouldn’t want want to promise that they would be there for the full 10 years, he added, noting that the Town has been “great to us.”

If the consortium is going to work, Sedgwick speculated, it would probably be formalized before the end of the year. Then it’s a matter of raising funds to renovate the STEPS building. It’s part of the agreement that still has to be worked out, what each entity will do. Sedgwick said they do have a memorandum of understanding with FeedMore, and FeedMore and STEPS have talked several times.

If it happens, it would probably triple or quadruple the current FACES space, he said. There’s the possibility, he added, they could share the area with another non-profit.