Coming out of 'the closet'

Publication Date: Wednesday Sep 20, 1995

COMMUNITY: Coming out of 'the closet'

New All Saints Parish Hall increases space for Food Closet program

by Peter Gauvin

Since 1976 the Food Closet has provided bags of groceries and equal amounts of caring to Palo Alto's poor residents out of cramped, narrow hallway in the All Saints Episcopal Church on Waverley Street.

The space was, literally, a closet.

But this week the Food Closet began operating out of a specially-designed wing of the new All Saints Parish Hall, just around the corner on Hamilton Avenue. The new space is complete with a storage room and kitchen area, counter area, and an indoor and outdoor waiting area, all in one location.

"This was designed with them in mind," said church Rector Margaret Irwin. "They've been in this cramped little closet (for 19 years)," although the number of people they serve has continued to grow.

Patsy McAfee founded the Food Closet back then. "We opened Nov. 1, 1976. At that time we had six churches involved. Now there are 29. We served 92 people in the first three months and now we serve more than 100 in a day," she said.

"It will be a real improvement," said Dan Gray, board president of the Urban Ministry, which now operates the Food Closet with the help of those 29 churches.

In addition to the expanded quarters for the Food Closet, the Urban Ministry's hot-lunch program will also be coming back to the parish on Thursdays, Irwin said.

The new parish hall replaces a building built in the 1920s that the church was going to remodel, but then discovered that it was structurally unsound, Irwin said.

After five years of planning, they broke ground in January on the new parish hall, which was designed by architect Monty Anderson.

"We wanted to create a bright and light space, in contrast to the dark sanctuary used for worship," Anderson said.

The 6,800-square-foot hall, which has a large hardwood floor ideal for dancing, a fireside meeting room and a large kitchen, will be used purely for social functions.

"I feel it's a real contribution to the downtown landscape," said Rector Irwin.

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