Church, food pantry have to find new home

May. 09, 2014 @ 08:07 AM

Each Monday for the past four years, folks have lined up at the Storehouse Daily Bread Ministry off Morganton Boulevard to get food or clothing assistance. On Sundays, about 150 or so attend services at the Crossroads Community Church, which runs the food pantry.

But this may be the last week for that. The church and food pantry were told May 1 to move out by Wednesday.

The church started using the 40,000-square-foot building for free in August 2010 with the permission of property owner James Taylor, said Rick Bowman, the church's pastor.

In September 2012, Bank of Granite -- which is now CommunityOne Bank -- foreclosed on the property and several others Taylor owned, but Bowman said he was assured his church and food pantry could remain until a new buyer could be found.

But the bank now has a buyer, said CommunityOne Bank President Bob Reid.

"We've had multiple conversations with the church," Reid said. "They've known quite some time of our intent to sell. We've given them free rent for the past 19 months. We've attempted to negotiate a lease for the church, but were not successful.

"We have a buyer now. My advice for the church is to talk to the new buyer. But we intend to move forward."

Bowman said the church has sunk about $100,000 into the building, including laying tile on the floor of the church foyer and hanging sheetrock inside the sanctuary. He said he wanted to buy the building but could not negotiate a deal. The bank once sent him a lease proposal, and he countered with another, but that was the last he heard about a lease.

"We still wanted to buy the building, and were ready to do so. All we wanted was the first opportunity to purchase the property," he said. "But then we get this letter. We didn't see this coming. It's like getting kicked in the belly and having the wind knocked out of you."

Bowman's wife, Cecilia, runs the food pantry, which receives about two truckloads of food a week from Operation Blessing, an outreach of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and from Second Harvest Food Bank. The number of individuals served by the food pantry has grown from 3,000 a month in 2006, when it and the church operated out of a building in Whitnel, to about 8,000 now. The pantry's vast warehouse is stocked with non-perishable and perishable food ready to be distributed each Monday.

Volunteers from various churches help sort, bag and distribute the food. Among the volunteers is Bradley Soots, 81, who said he spends 40 hours a week in the warehouse setting up nearly 600 bags for distribution.

"I hate to see things go like this," Soots said. "If they (CommunityOne Bank) demand, we'll have to move. All we can do is pray that this is the work of the Lord."

For now, about 100 pallets of food has been moved to a building on Nuway Circle. Bowman may hold a large food giveaway if the doors do close on May 14.

"We're going to try our best to continue to serve the community," Bowman said. "We will go on. God has not given me an option to quit."