In the three weeks the new Keuka Food Pantry has been open, nearly 300 families with 951 individuals have been served and 13,000 lbs. of food have left the shelves to help solve food insecurity in the community.

Tuesday morning, leaders of Pro Action of Steuben and Yates were joined by major funders, elected officials, and Keuka Food Pantry volunteers for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the Hope Center, a new community services center in Penn Yan and the new home of the food pantry. Located at 202 East Elm St. in the former VFW building, the center was dedicated to Milly Bloomquist and Stephanie Bates, two champions of people in poverty in this community, according to Laura Rossman, CEO of Pro Action of Steuben and Yates.

Bloomquist was the founder of the food pantry, which previously operated out of the Penn Yan Baptist Church, and Bates was a Pro Action staffer and visionary leader in the aftermath of the 2014 flooding.

The building has undergone major renovations to provide community members a welcoming space to access services or volunteers.

The Hope Center builds upon the work that has been going on for the past 25 years by Keuka Food Pantry volunteers, who have helped hundreds of local families find sustenance and support.

The Keuka Food Pantry began serving clients at their new location in late September. It will be open 15 hours per week, 60 hours per month — a dramatic increase from its former maximum capacity of one distribution per month. The Hope Center vision is to be a one-stop-shop, where people and families will access a wide range of services to help them meet basic needs and ultimately thrive independently.

Funding for the project was provided by William G. McGowan Charitable Fund Inc., the Nord Family Foundation, Yates Community Endowment, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Pro Action of Steuben and Yates Inc., and Yates County United Way.

“The William G. McGowan Fund has been involved with feeding the people of Yates County for more than 10 years, beginning with supporting the Backpack Program — which provides local schoolchildren with nutritious food when school is not in session — to funding Milly’s Pantry while working with the amazing Milly Bloomquist, to working with Pro Action and Keuka Food Pantry today,” said Marianne Rosica-Brand, Yates County resident and board member of The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund. “It’s energizing to see three strong organizations working together to bring not only food to Yates County, but also to bring opportunities and hope.”

“The Nord Family Foundation has a long-standing commitment to partnering with organizations whose mission is to feed those who are hungry in the communities it serves,” said Katie Peterson of the Nord Family Foundation. “So, when the opportunity arose to support the efforts of Pro Action and the Hope Center it was clear that the project would be a perfect fit.”

“Supporting the creation of a full-service food pantry in Yates County is a necessary response to the county’s widespread food insecurity,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of Rochester Area Community Foundation, which provided $20,000 in grant support over two years. “We believe The Hope Center will make a real difference in the lives of Yates County residents in need.”

Partners including Keuka Housing Council, Wegmans, Foodlink were also critical to this collaborative project’s success. The Housing Council purchased the former VFW building and partnered with Pro Action on the renovation. Wegmans’ staff members helped design the new food pantry, planning the space so it will provide clients a positive retail experience, secured equipment donations, and installed them. Foodlink provided operations and planning support. The Hope Center is actively recruiting volunteers to help with its increased schedule of food distributions.