Friendship House, the community organization that has been meeting dire needs in the Marcus Whitman community in Yates and Ontario Counties for more than 45 years, finds itself in need of help these days.

Each month, about 225 families come to the rambling old building on Williams Street to receive a full week’s worth of food. That averages out to enough food for 12,600 meals each month, according to Cora Marvin, Friendship House director.

In just two years, the number of families served has more than doubled, from 90 to 225, which means the old building on Williams Street where Friendship House is located has reached its limits for storage.

That’s why the Friendship House Board of Directors has launched a capital fund drive with a goal to raise $125,000 to either renovate the building, buy a new building, or build a new headquarters. The capital project will kick off with a benefit event at Lincoln Hill Farms June 23. Lincoln Hill Farms is a new event venue one mile south of Routes 5 & 20 off State Rte. 247. The event will feature a pig roast by Kings Catering and live music by Brian Ayers. Tickets are $50 per person ($10 for children under 12). There will also be raffles and a 50/50 drawing.

The board will also establish a GoFundMe account and seek donations from area community groups, according to board member Jim Loomis.

On a recent walk-through of the facility, Marvin pointed out the rooms full of unsorted donated items for the thrift shop which helps raise funds to pay for food, supplies, and overhead. The thrift shop is filled with clothing, furniture, toys, and household items.

Food items for the pantry are stored in a series of small rooms and wherever Marvin can find extra space to stack a few cases.

The second story of the barn-like structure is used to store seasonal items, many for use during a pre-holiday food and gift distribution. 

In a small shed outside, Marvin fills several shelves with other donations of breads and produce that she has picked up from Walmart, Wegmans, and Tops grocery stores. Those items  — between two and two and a half tons per week — are available on a first come, first serve basis. She posts photos or video on facebook to let people know the “Bread Shed” shelves are full again.

The geographic territory served by Friendship House stretches over 154 square miles in the Marcus Whitman School District - from north of Routes 5 & 20 almost to Orleans in Ontario County to Italy Valley in Yates County. 

Friendship House is affiliated with FoodLink, which has designated the pantry as one of only 11 in the 10 county region to be a Front Door Agency. Front Door agencies are a first contact for people who need emergency food assistance, and they must serve anyone from any income level. That brings more people to Marvin’s doorstep. Just last week, the director of the Naples food pantry passed away, so people from that area have been coming to Friendship House for help.

Marvin comes face-to-face with the dire needs in the community as a routine. As she works to help people make connections with social service programs in Yates and Ontario Counties, she explains, “It’s got to be in your heart or it’s just a job.”

The Williams Street building is Friendship House’s third home. It began as a project of some of the Methodist Church members and was based there before moving to what is now the Middlesex Town Hall, then finally to the old building that is chopped up into a maze of small, inconvenient rooms.

Friendship House is open Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, to volunteer, donate, or seek assistance, call 585-554-6056 or stop in to see Marvin.