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Holiday-area ministry plans kitchen expansion

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Published:   |   Updated: January 10, 2014 at 10:03 AM

HOLIDAY — Metropolitan Ministries is expanding its Pasco Outreach Center in Holiday this year, starting with an overhaul of the kitchen this month.

State lawmakers based in Pasco also will renew efforts to obtain a grant for the charity that wants to build transitional housing with 24 units at the Holiday headquarters at 3214 U.S. 19. A $1.3 million grant in 2013 did not survive a veto by Gov. Rick Scott.

For the major kitchen expansion, crews could arrive within the next week or so, the Rev. Dan Campbell reported Tuesday. He leads the Pasco outreach effort of Metropolitan Ministries, based in Tampa.

The new facility will enlarge the kitchen fourfold. The outreach center then could prepare up to 2,000 meals a day to help feed the hungry in the region, Campbell added during the phone interview.

The kitchen renovation itself could cost about $850,000. Additional expenses could push the total toward $1 million. The nonprofit organization already has enough funds on hand to finish the kitchen.

Asbestos abatement will be the first order of business for construction workers, slated to begin Jan. 20, Campbell pointed out.

Installation on kitchen equipment could begin about the third week of February, Campbell predicts. Some of the freezers are so huge they will sit outside the kitchen itself.

Toward the end of March, kitchen staff could begin testing the gear during a “soft opening” to get up to full speed.

Perhaps the new kitchen facility could be ready for some type of dedication service about the time of the Easter holiday, Campbell hopes.

Kitchen staff will have the means to prepare each meal for about $1.76, Campbell pointed out.

The meal probably would cost less than the food alone that smaller charities could buy. “If they bought the food themselves they could not do it that cheaply,” Campbell remarked.

Carriers then could ferry the finished meals to various partner sites around the area, Campbell said. The Pasco facility would use highly insulated containers like those the American Red Cross utilizes. The containers can keep food warm and fresh for about six hours, Campbell noted.

The Pasco Outreach Center will have to hire a chef and more kitchen workers, Campbell noted. Besides the charitable mission of feeding the hungry, Metropolitan Ministries officials also envision catering work and a culinary training school at the Pasco kitchen.

In the meantime, Metropolitan Ministries will try again for funding for transitional housing.

The charity had asked for $1.3 million last year for the project with 24 apartments for families, Campbell recalled. The building would have about 100 beds total, or four beds per unit.

State lawmakers delivered the goods with a state grant, but then Scott used a line-item veto to jettison it from the state budget.

However, the entire Pasco delegation of lawmakers remain supportive of the concept, Campbell said. They have given him assurances to seek funding in 2014.

“Speaker Weatherford, Senator Legg, Senator Simpson, Representative Murphy, and I will continue to fight for the transitional housing funding,” state Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz, pledged in an email reply Wednesday to inquiries.

“Pasco is at the forefront of this battle with more homeless folks per capita than anywhere else in the state,” Corcoran commented. “This public-private partnership is an example of how these projects should move forward in the future, as an entire community effort.

“This project is supported by local businessmen like Rich Bekesh and Scott Fink, it is supported by our local government, and it is supported by our local legislative delegation,” Corcoran continued. “I am optimistic that we can achieve success this year.”

“The Metropolitan Ministries transitional housing project is designed to give people a hand up,” state Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, remarked Wednesday in an email reply to inquiries. “The program has stipulations on who gets housing and how they get to keep this housing.

“Over the last few years, many people in our area have lost their homes or are still in the process of losing their home due to job loss, homeowner insurance crisis or in some cases health care crisis,” Murphy added.

“This program would help stabilize families and then allow them to work to get back on their feet. Let’s get them into a stable environment and back on their feet,” Murphy concluded.

Pasco remains near the top among Florida’s 67 counties in the proportion of homeless people, Pasco County Community Development Division director George Romagnoli said in May at a county commission meeting.

“They’re not hidden,” Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said in May. “You see the homeless in many places.” She hopes that “some guardian angels step up” to assist with expansion of the Metropolitan Ministries Pasco Outreach Center.

The transitional housing unit would provide shelter for families while they seek employment and permanent housing. The two-story building would include a living room with computers for job searches and résumé preparation. The plan also calls for a laundry area and playground.

For information, call the Pasco Outreach Center at (727) 937-3268 or go to www.metromin.org.

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