Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - After almost 40 years of serving the community, Helping Hands Foodbank closed their doors Friday.
Helping Hands Foodbank at 6590 Glacier Highway closed its doors Friday.
Karen Fortwengler is the director of Helping Hands. She said what went into this difficult decision.
"We made it through the pandemic because we had enough money saved up. But then for a while there, even though places opened up during the pandemic, we couldn't. We couldn't get our foot in again with fundraisers there. So it kind of took us out. We didn't overspend our money. It was used for everything that Helping Hands needed. Like rent, utilities, and upkeep of the van that we picked things up in. Everybody that volunteered there was exactly that, a volunteer. Not a single one of us took any money away from Helping Hands, all volunteered and 100% of the donations went right back into running Helping Hands. So what went into the closure was lack of financial help and volunteers."
Fortwengler said that it was extremely difficult for her to close the doors.
"I'm trying to get people to realize that it was not an easy decision by far to make. It was a very, very hard decision that I had to make. It's not one I took lightly either because we helped a lot of people over the last 39 years. I want everybody in the community to know in Juneau here that we appreciate them and appreciate the past years of support that we have gotten from them. We're sad to close up. It's heartbreaking for all but I just want to let the community know how much we appreciate them, their support, and their love. And we truly wish that we could have kept it going for them but didn't work out, unfortunately. I know there's other resources for those people, but we were part of an area where people didn't have vehicles or people were disabled or lived in that area. We were more on the bus line than most places where people get food. So I struggled with this decision for months and months and months. But I mean, without the finances, there's really nothing I could do."
Fortwengler added that in the process of clearing out their warehouse, they are giving away a variety of items and the food they have left over.
"We've got to really clean out that warehouse. And over the years, we've collected a lot of stuff. And we have a lot to give out. In fact, when we opened Friday, we still had food to give out. So Helping Hands Foodbank of Juneau is the Facebook page, and then I'll be also posting on the Switzer neighborhood page and I'll be also posting on Juneau Community Concerns and Juneau Community Collective. We'll just be setting out stuff outside underneath the porch for people to grab."
Fortwengler said she also has a three-door commercial freezer and a three-door refrigerator and a three-door window cooler to sell in the process of clearing the warehouse.
In December, Helping Hands Foodbank will have a group open the doors for the community to come through and pick things out for free.
Fortwengler said when they have a date and time it will be posted on their Facebook.
Some resources that remain in town are the Southeast Alaska Foodbank, Meals on Wheels from Catholic Community Services, Salvation Army, Glory Hall, and the Pay it Forward Juneau Facebook group.