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Food bank breaks ground on new logistics center
Georiga Mountain Food Bank serves agencies in several counties
Walter Boomershine laughs this morning with Kay Blackstock at the groundbreaking for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank's new Boomershine Family Logistics Center. - photo by Tom Reed

Work will begin soon on the new 20,000-square-foot Georgia Mountain Food Bank's Boomershine Family Logistics Center.

A ceremony marking the start of construction was held Monday morning at the site off Calvary Church Road, about a mile south of Candler Road.

"What a great day," said Kay Blackstock, the food bank's executive director, looking around at the 100 or so people at the event. "We started with one person who made an observation that led to action and going to another person."

Eventually, the community "came together and that's what we're doing here today."

"We're all making the statement that hunger is real ... in our communities and that we're not going to turn our backs anymore," Blackstock said.

"This food bank ... will be the glue that brings us together and inspires us to trust each other, work together and collaborate. And together, we can accomplish great things."

The food bank, an affiliate of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, serves nonprofit agencies throughout the region, including Hall, Lumpkin, Forsyth, Dawson and Union counties.

It is now housed in space donated by Hollis Transport & Logistics at 4515 Cantrell Road, Flowery Branch.

"That's not a food-grade warehouse and so, when food comes in there, like it will be coming (Monday) morning, it has to be turned (around) very quickly," Blackstock said. "We've made it work, but this (logistics center) will help us operate more efficiently."

Retired Atlanta businessman Walter Boomershine contributed money needed for the logistics center.

"We're here today because of him," said Kevin Price, who heads the Georgia Mountain Food Bank's resource development committee. "Very frankly, without Walter's money, we wouldn't be ready to start (construction)."

Blackstock said the project, estimated to cost between $1.5 million and $2 million, could be finished within six months. The building will be put up on a 2-acre site donated by Gainesville businessman Jim Walters.

A "desperate need for large, drive-in freezer and cooler space" was the catalyst for pursuing a new building, said Richard White, the food bank's board chairman.

"Once we get the building complete, we will have a full-service facility where we can warehouse large quantities of food and get it in and get it out ... to the people who really need it," White said.

He also credited Boomershine, a board member for the past three years, and his contributions.

"He has been a guiding light for all of us," White said. "He has been supportive in every way."

Boomershine, speaking after the ceremony, said he was elated the project is getting under way.

The whole point to the logistics center is "to distribute it to the hungry," he said.

Bill Bolling, founder and CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, also spoke at Monday's ceremony.

Speaking on the Atlanta food bank's history, he said, "It became clear to us over the years that we were not doing as good a job as needed to be done in the North Georgia area, so we started looking for collaborative partners."

The organization looked to the Gainesville area, "which has tremendous leadership (and) resources."

Bolling wound up talking to area pastors, leaders and eventually Jim Mathis, North Georgia Community Foundation's president and CEO.

"Today, here we are ... and this (ceremony) really represents how Gainesville-Hall County comes together when they decide they need to do something," he said.