Moving but not leaving

Promising no interruption in the flow of food to the needy, the Ashland Emergency Food Bank announced Wednesday it is moving to a new home on the east side of Interstate 5.

The building, formerly home to Kentucky Fried Chicken and A&W at 560 Clover Lane, is half a mile farther from the center of town and clients will have to cross the freeway to get there. But the new overpass will include improved bike and pedestrian paths that will provide ample room for safety, said Food Bank board President Greg Lemhouse.

The 39-year-old Food Bank, located at 2200 Ashland St., will continue operation during the move, with both spots open briefly during the transition, Lemhouse said. Crews will work on plumbing and electricity in the new spot starting Sept. 21, with full operation there expected by the end of the month.

"Service will not shut down at all, so there will not be any worry about getting food," he said.

National Guardsmen in Ashland will help with the move, said Lt. David Rose. On Saturday morning, 40 Guardsmen will walk door-to-door asking for nonperishable food donations within a half-mile of the armory at 1420 E. Main St.

The busy Food Bank has registered a 174 percent increase in demand for food from 2007, just before the economic crash, said Lemhouse. It served 485 clients a month in the first half of 2007, compared with 1,330 in the first half of 2011.

Clients are mainly families and the working poor, he said, noting that 38 percent are children and only 2 percent are homeless.

The Food Bank has been looking for a new home since 2008, when John Schweiger, owner of Coming Attractions Theatres, bought it from former Ashland Mayor Alan DeBoer. Schweiger said Wednesday he had planned to turn it into a three-story office building. But because of the recession, he scaled back and will make it his corporate headquarters, from which he will direct his 19 movie theaters in the Northwest and Alaska.

"It was a very difficult decision," Schweiger said. "I've worked very closely with the Food Bank for a number of years, and it got to the point where your heart can't lead your head and your pocketbook — and the Food Bank needed to do something and they got a new place."

The Food Bank's new location is owned by People's Bank of Commerce. Lemhouse declined to say whether monthly rent would increase at the new place, but said both leases were fair and affordable.

The new store comes with an option to buy, he added. The board may consider ownership, which would require a fundraising effort, he said.

"We're in good financial shape with good donors," he said.

The Food Bank provides a monthly box of food to anyone from Ashland or Talent who needs food and provides name and address, Lemhouse said. It also gives food to churches that provide meals and for Uncle Food's Diner, put on by Peace House.

Lemhouse acknowledged that the new site is "not ideal" but "it's important for people to understand that for nonprofits, it's difficult to find secure housing." A shuttle from town is being considered, he said.

The Ashland Food Project, which picks up food bags at residential doorsteps every other month, has helped supplement the Food Bank's supply, but "there's still a definite need for food in the valley," Lemhouse said.

Food Bank Director Susan Harris said, "Moving the Food Bank to the new location on Clover Lane will work out just great for those we serve, also for our volunteers and for our donors. By the end of this month, we will be a half-mile away from our current spot, yet we will be providing the same routine of offering an important service to those who need a some help."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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