Story by Diti Kohli
Bread of Life Malden, an organization dedicated to preventing food insecurity, effectively raised $1.4 million, or nearly 50 percent, of the required funding to reconstruct its headquarters at 54 Eastern Ave. as of March 19. Some basic services, including a food pantry, are already run out of the acquired building.
Executive director Gabriella Snyder Stelmack and development director Patty Kelly informed the City Council of the organization’s progress and mission at the March 19 council meeting.
The $2.9 million funding estimate for reconstruction includes the remaining loan payment on the Eastern Avenue building. The 501c3 non-profit bought the property for $750,000 in 2014 using monies from philanthropy efforts.
Bread of Life’s actions to open its own headquarters follow a long history of occupying temporary meal sites.
“We lost our meal site several times,” said Stelmack resignedly. “Different times we’ve been serving out of our van or truck in a parking lot. And a lot of those [past] facilities, almost all of them, have had really outdated equipment and kitchens.”
In addition to a kitchen, food pantry, storage, offices, and dining hall that will aid the organization’s mission to feed low-income individuals, the headquarters will house community spaces. Organizers hope to use these additional areas to host employment training, financial counseling, English classes for constituents, as well as miscellaneous meetings by community members.
After a larger portion of the funding is acquired, the current connected buildings on the lot will be demolished to allow for the construction of housing units on the second and third floors. The front entrance to the headquarters will face the Northern Strand Trail.
Metro North Housing Corp., another non-profit, and Bread of Life have partnered to open 14 studio apartments for formerly homeless individuals attached to the building. Two of the 14 units are reserved for veterans in need. This addition requires another $4.5 million of development costs.
Under current predictions, the completed modernized building will open in October 2019, said Stelmack. Recently the planning board gave Bread of Life an extension to continue construction into 2020.
City councilors offered praise of the organization’s efforts in response to Stelmack and Kelly’s announcement. Many city councilors believe the modernized Bread of Life headquarters will enliven the area around Eastern Avenue. As of today, its surroundings largely includes commercial properties and retail.
“It’ll really bring life to that corner,” said Council Peg Crowe of Ward 1, where the headquarters will be built. “I can’t wait to walk through the doors of that finished building.”
Others commend the organization for spearheading such an effort in Malden. The city houses a significant population whose average household income is approximately $12,000 under the state average of $74,167, as reported by the Boston Globe in December 2018.
“Food pantries are so important to food security,” said Councillor-at-large Stephen P. Winslow. “As a city with lot of low-income residents, it’s an extra challenge here to do the work you do.”
Now Bread of Life looks forward to additional efforts that need to be completed before the headquarters can be formally built.
After opening, Bread of Life estimates it will take $450,000 annually to operate efficiently. Money for daily operation will originate in FEMA and federal funding, fundraising collection, grants, contracts, and other donations.
Stelmack urged the council to help fund the initiative and cited a recent $10,000 donation from the city of Melrose. She reminded officials that 60 percent of the people Bread of Life serves are from Malden, and 22 percent of those served are children. The council did not discuss aiding the organization financially at the March 19 meeting.
“This combined project is really going to help us to serve people more efficiently and sort of, more people because we will have more space,” said Stelmack, who is hopeful about the organization’s future volunteerism efforts.
Donations for Bread of Life can be made at breadoflifemalden.org or by contacting Gabriella Synder Stelmack at 781-475-9060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diti Kohli is an intern at MATV. She is currently a journalism major at Emerson College.