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BOE, food bank strike deal over old Sallie Z
Board members vote to lease vacant school
In this Herald file photo from November 2010, Statesboro Food Bank volunteers Diana Moore, left, and Dot Simmons team up to prepare a package a week's supply of food for a family of six. The Food Bank is hoping to move from its current Proctor St. location to the old Sallie Zetterower Elementary School cafeteria by March 1. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/Herald File

       The Statesboro Food Bank will be moving to a larger facility soon. Bulloch County Board of Education members voted Thursday to lease a portion of a vacant elementary school building on Brannen Street to the food bank.
      The building was vacated earlier this year when students moved to the new Sallie Zetterower Elementary School building on Cawana Road.
      Food Bank Director Joe Bill Brannon met Friday morning with Statesboro Mayor Joe Brannen, BOE chairman David Ball and a host of other concerned citizens to discuss the move, which is expected to be done by March 1.
       Others joined the meeting as well, including representatives of the Old Savannah City Mission. Some discussed the need for a homeless shelter during the meeting, but Brannon said Friday's meeting was originally scheduled to finalize plans for the food bank's move to the old school building.
      Citizens interested in forming a mission for area homeless persons plan to meet again Feb. 17 at Statesboro First United Methodist Church at 6:30 p.m., said Delia Mobley, one of the supporters behind the project.
Further planning will be required for that endeavor, but Brannon said action will take place immediately to begin the food bank's move.
      The current location on Proctor Street is overcrowded, has very little cold storage and "We have flat outgrown" the building, he said. Having been in that location for 23 years, the Proctor Street facility currently serves 400 families a month, he said.
      While expressing support for further work towards helping people who are in need, Brannon said the immediate need is to feed the hungry. Using the cafeteria section of the vacant school building will enable the food bank to offer hot meals to citizens "at least six times a week," will allow the storage of donated items requiring refrigeration, and could also serve as emergency shelter for those displaced by situations such as the recent power outages due to ice.
      Excited about possibilities, Brannon said future plans to expand services to the area's less fortunate are great, but providing immediate help through feeding the hungry is key.
      "The thing that started this is feeding the people now," he said. "It can grow into anything."
      Speaking during the meeting, Ball said "We do need to start this thing with baby steps. What we have to do this morning is .... get the key to Sallie Zetterower and determine how we're going to get that done. "
      Amid confusion between the two interests voiced by citizens during the meeting, food bank supporter Speed Thompson said "We did not start out to be a mission. We started out to feed and help the needy people."
      Brannon said "It's a shame and disgrace that we have kids going to bed hungry right here in Bulloch County."
      Chip Mobley spoke about the need to go further after the food bank is moved. "If you feed someone a few days and they go back on the street again, it is a temporary fix."
      Brannon agreed, but stated again his immediate focus is on feeding people who cannot afford to buy adequate food.
      "We want to go beyond feeding," Delia Mobley said. "We want to get them back into the community as productive citizens."
      The two projects can work together, Thompson said. "You can display a lot of Christian principles by feeding somebody in a soup kitchen."
      Brannon said he hoped the Bulloch County Board of Education would consider a permanent move by the food bank to the old Julia P. Bryant Elementary building on Stockyard Road, which currently houses students from Mattie Lively Elementary School.
      The former Mattie Lively building on Debbie Drive was torn down, and a new school is beingconstructed on that site. Once that school building is complete, Mattie Lively students will move into the new facility and the Stockyard Road building will be vacant.
      Ball said there is a "50-50" chance that the old JPB school could be used by the food bank in the future, but said the school board has not even discussed the issue.
      Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway said there have been discussions about other uses for the old JPB site, including possible construction of sports facilities for use by Langston Chapel and William James Middle School students.
      Representatives of the food bank sent a letter to the BOE asking to use the old Sallie Zetterower building after it was vacated, he said. A lease was agreed upon for $1 from March to December 2011 and a legal memorandum of agreement is being drawn up, he said.
      Ball said other entities, including the Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology, Bulloch County Head Start, and BOE technology employees have expressed interest in the Sallie Zetterower building.
      Under the agreement to lease the building, the food bank board will maintain the facility and pay for upkeep, at no cost to the school board or tax payers, he said.
      Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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