The APOYO food bank plans to become a much larger part of Ellensburg, and will be constructing a new facility to help serve the community. This was made possible through a $225,000 community learning grant from Group Health Foundation

“APOYO is going to be evolving into a community center,” said Executive Director Stefanie Wickstrom. “We will continue to have our food pantry. Food and clothing and material supports of all kinds including sometimes furniture and that kind of thing. We are still going to be doing all those same things, but we are going to also become a community center.”

APOYO (Allied People Offering Year-Round Outreach, also Spanish for “support”) plans to build a new structure, and is partnering with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Ellensburg Lodge 20. Wickstrom said they are already leasing property with the order, but she is not ready to announce the exact location at this time.

By creating this new community center, APOYO will no longer be operating from the Central Washington University campus. Last November, the food bank reached an agreement with the university to remain at its current location on campus until Oct. 31 2022. However, the construction of the new building will not be completed until sometime in 2023.

This means there will be at least two months where APOYO has no place it can call home. Wickstrom said this will not stop them from helping the community. APOYO started in 1995 by giving out food from the back of a pickup truck, and if need be, they will start using pickups again.

This would be a last resort for APOYO, and it seems unlikely. Wickstrom said they will speak with CWU to get an extension of their agreement, and if that doesn’t work out, they will look around town for temporary locations.

“We’ve got some plan b’s and c’s, out there” Wickstrom said.

Wickstrom said the organization looked at a number of buildings around town, and eventually decided to construct a new one from scratch because APOYO wanted to make it its own.

“The building is going to be totally awesome. I think that’s also a part of what we are going to be able do by using sustainable construction and we are also keeping utility costs super low,” Wickstrom said. “We can be an example of what sustainability is across the spectrum, that also contributes to the health of individual people and the community.”

The $225,000 grant will not be able to fund the entire construction of the building, which is estimated at $400,000 plus $100,000 in utilities and unexpected costs. However, the grant will allow the organization to hire extra staff and enable the organization to start a fundraising campaign.

Wickstrom said they also have a large donor who has contributed $25,000 and pledged around $200,000. They have also been receiving other grants to help with construction. Wickstrom said they are able to provide the $400,000 for construction, and only need the additional $100,000.

“We’re gonna get it, I feel confident,” Wickstrom said. “We have an amazing group of people working on this project. APOYO’s board now is just a really cool group of people who are willing to put in so much of their time and energy and I feel like we have everything we need to make this thing happen even if we need some more money.”