Thanks to the generosity of the community, Opportunity House in downtown Reading has a new pantry with shelves filled with food and a shiny new refrigerator and freezer.

The pantry, which had been closed since the 1980s, endured water seeping into the walls and rodents infesting the building. When the project began last year, the walls of the pantry were bare brick, and the floor was uneven.

But Habitat, a nonprofit devoted to providing housing for all, came to the rescue to do the work. Habitat volunteers provided the renovations, and the state Department of Environmental Protection, Customers Bank and the Berks County Community Foundation provided the funding for the $186,000 project.

Modesto D. Fiume, president of Opportunity House, said the nonprofit is grateful to the community for donating time and money to renovate the pantry located in back of the emergency shelter at 430 N. Second St.

“This is the beauty of Reading and the beauty of Berks County,” Fiume said during a celebration of the completion of the pantry on Friday morning.

The 100 residents in transitional housing will be able to pick up food twice a week from the pantry to supplement their food supply. The food will also be used to feed some of the residents in the shelter.

Timothy J. Daley, Habitat’s executive director, said the pantry was in desperate need of repair.

“If you have the ability to help, it is no longer help, it is responsibility,” Daley said.

As part of Habitat’s work of helping local nonprofits with construction projects at a reasonable cost, their construction crew removed the old plywood floor and replaced it with high density floor sheathing.

Walls were studded out, insulation was added, and drywall was put up.

A new exhaust fan was installed in the new ceiling to further control temperature. The electrical work in the pantry was also upgraded, and the room was finished with a fresh coat of paint.

A new walk-in freezer and refrigerator were installed to add to food storage capacity.

“It’s going to help us keep that area clean and tidy,” said Delia McLendon, vice president of shelter and supportive housing at the Opportunity House. “We can store more food in this area.”

Mayor Eddie Moran said he could not thank the volunteers and donors enough.

“We are all neighbors, and we are building a better Reading,” the mayor said during the gathering.

Donna Reed, City Council representative, said the renovated pantry is wonderful.

Reed, who represents District 5, said she was standing in for Councilwoman Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, who represents District 6 and was unable to attend the opening.

Read the original article on The Reading Eagle.

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