Footings, foundation work underway at food bank

The addition that will more than double the size of Juneau’s only legally designated food bank is starting to take shape.

On Tuesday afternoon, a crew of about eight construction workers poured concrete into wooden footing forms — basically really large molds — extending past the existing structure 95 feet in one direction and 24 feet in the other. When the wooden forms are removed, the building’s footings will be finished, and the project will be one step closer to completion.

“We’ve been in bad need of this addition for a long time — for years,” Jim Wilcox, the food bank’s former president, told the Empire at the site Tuesday afternoon. Speaking loudly enough to be heard over the roar of the cement-mixing truck behind him, Wilcox said that he hopes the addition will be complete within the next three months. The concrete work should be finished in about a week, he said.

[Food bank grows to meet city needs.]

All told, the $300,000 addition will add more than 2,000 square feet to the existing 1,000-square-foot structure. Most of that will be used for storage space, but the addition will also house some office space, a walk-in freezer and a carport for delivery vans.

Wilcox said the additional storage space will allow the food bank to begin buying in bulk, which it hasn’t been able to do up until now due to space constraints. Currently, food bank manager Darren Adams stacks crates of food from the floor to the ceiling of the existing storage area, and the need for food is only growing.

Last year, the food bank gave out nearly 300,000 pounds of food, and Wilcox expects that number to grow. The new addition will allow the bank to keep pace with the growing demand, he said.

None of this would be possible without the volunteer efforts of the community, he said.

“Everybody has been super,” Wilcox said. “I like to tell people that we’re adding a $300,000 addition, and we’re not spending any money.”

Most of the construction work, engineering and materials are being donated. The footings alone have more than $3,000 worth of steel in them, and were donated to the food bank, Wilcox said.

Wilcox stepped down from his role as president of the food bank’s board of directors at the end of last time so that he would have more time to oversee the project. He has spent a lot of that time working his connections in the construction industry, which he has built during the past 59 years he’s lived in Juneau.

Wilcox said he knows many of the city’s contractors personally and has enlisted the help of at least five different firms to help with the project, most of which are working as volunteers or at a significantly discounted rate.

“When people see me coming, they know I’m going to get their help for something,” he said with a laugh.

One of those people is Denny Mayer, a former Juneau contractor who started Northern Lights Development in the early 1980s. Though Mayer has since passed his business onto his son, he is overseeing the construction of the addition for Wilcox.

Mayer said that the project has been enjoyable to work on, in part because it’s for a worthy cause.

“It’s a good thing, so everybody is enjoying what they’re doing,” he said. But the project is particularly fun for Mayer because it has given him a chance to return to the construction site.

“You can’t so something your whole life and not miss it when you walk away,” he said, watching as workers smoothed the surface of the concrete footings. He let his son take over for him at North Lights about 20 years ago, “but we’re always building something. It’s just in the blood, I guess.”

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or at sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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