The Maricopa Pantry food bank burned to the ground March 28, leaving hundreds of local families without a source for food – or so they thought.
Since the fire, founder Jim Shoaf has dived headlong into rebuilding.
What initially was expected to be a long period without being able to serve the community turned out to be just two weeks.
“(We) got right back up and running,” Shoaf said. “We distributed out of the Maricopa High School parking lot that week and the third week we were actually back at our facility. That third week after the fire we served 800 families.”
Shoaf credits St. Mary’s Food Bank for keeping his operation afloat during the process.
“Thanks to St. Mary’s we were able to get back to serving very fast,” Shoaf said. “They gave us three freezer trailers and that’s what we’re working out of now.”
Shoaf is hoping to raise full funding for the rebuild but, “that would take a bit of a miracle right now.”
A major step toward raising those funds, according to Shoaf, is state approved of Maricopa Pantry for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. That means that Arizona taxpayers may donate as much as $400 to the pantry and receive the amount of that donation back in a state income-tax credit, effectively reimbursing the donation.
“We’re about $1 million shy of having the funds for everything we want to do,” Shoaf said. “We have the drawing of the building we want. We’re finishing that up and then we’ll be going to an architect. We hope to go to the county after the first of year for permits and would like to break ground after the first of the year. Realistically, it will probably be February or March.”
Shoaf will rebuild on the existing property at 50881 W. Papago Road in Hidden Valley, a site it shares with Mountain View Community Church.
“So many people who come there now who know it, I’d hate to change the location,” he said.
He added that he and his wife, Alice, have signed paperwork to ensure its place in Maricopa’s future.
“We have it set up now so it will live on way beyond me and Alice,” Shoaf said. “We want it to be a staple in Maricopa, so we’ve set up our paperwork so that it will continue on after we are gone.”
Maricopa Pantry serves on Saturdays and Mondays, providing food boxes to local families in need. The Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, Shoaf said the group served 1,575 families in 2½ hours.
Shoaf said his immediate priority is to get at least the warehouse building up and running.
“That way we can be out of the 100-degree heat when we’re serving next summer,” he said.
Those trailers from St. Mary’s also will enable Maricopa Pantry to meet increased demand during the holiday season. St. Mary’s will provide two trailers the Thursday and Friday before Christmas and New Year’s so the pantry can provide food boxes on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
“I expect 1,300 or more families both of those weekends unless the people go out of town in amazing numbers,” Shoaf said.
The organization acquired and distributed more than 3 million pounds of food last year. And while providing food is the primary mission, Shoaf doesn’t miss an opportunity to help in other ways.
His dream is to add other services, including a clothing bank, diaper storage and counseling sessions. Shoaf will continue to mentor young people and teach them to take personal responsibility for their lives and work toward creating a better future.
“We have provided wheelchairs, crutches, paid people’s rent,” he said. “If we have the ability to do it, we try to do it. We just look to serve.”
To volunteer or contribute: maricopapantry.org.
To read an in-depth profile of Shoaf and Maricopa Pantry click here.