Saved from the wrecking ball

Jul 11, 2019 by

Food Pantry’s future home may be the ultimate in recycling

Published July 11, 2019

NORTH READING — Just a few months after its launch, The Food Pantry HOME Fund is gaining momentum as news of the partnership between Christian Community Service (CCS) – the interfaith nonprofit that operates the pantry – and the Union Congregational Church, spreads.

CCS has run the North Reading Food Pantry since 1996 and serves 110 households monthly. The pantry had long ago outgrown the 450 square feet of secure space the town has generously allowed the nonprofit to use by carving out space on the former stage at Town Hall in the Murphy Center.

Enter the Union Congregational Church, which is gearing up for its 300th anniversary in 2020 and wanted to mark the milestone with an equally momentous commemoration that benefits the community. It turns out the church has a building on its grounds that may have faced a wrecking ball if the space was not re-purposed. At 1,100 square feet, the Annex, as it is called by church members, can more than satisfy the needs of the Food Pantry, including making it ADA-compliant.

Renovating the two-story structure for such a conversion is estimated to cost $220,000, but with donations so far ranging from $15 to $15,000 pouring in, both online and offline, The HOME Fund has already attained over $58,000 toward this goal.

MEMBERS of the 300th Anniversary Committee of the UCC and members of the Board of Directors of CCS celebrate their mutual goal of creating a permanent home for the NR Food Pantry Tuesday. Front row, from left: Dick and Carolyn Mottolo, fund raisers and CCS board; Nancy Parsons, 300th committee; Ellen Wiklanski, chairman of CCS and member of 300th committee; Stacey DeCarlo, 300th committee; Teresa Sanphy, co-chair of Food Pantry, Chris Page, 300th committee and Rev. Rick Hughes, pastor of UCC and 300th committee; back row, from left: John Intorcio, 300th committee; Dixie Kuehnel, 300th committee; Bonnie Wallace, co-chair of Food Pantry; Susan Murray, CCS Client Services. On the ladder are Carol Hudson, CCS treasurer, and Penny Esposito, CCS board. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

Purple banner hung

Earlier this week, members of the Food Pantry’s Board of Directors from CCS joined members of the 300th Anniversary Committee to hang a banner proclaiming the Annex to be the future home of the Food Pantry. The group gathered for a photo and listened as Nancy Parsons gave a short biography of the historic building that stands at the corner of Haverhill and Hill streets.

Built around 1875 by Solon P. Holt, a town selectman and member of the Massachusetts legislature, the Greek Revival style building was first a carriage house and barn, built to match Holt’s house that directly faces Haverhill Street.

In the mid-1900s, the town physician, Dr. Hoyt, purchased the house and turned the barn into medical offices. Throughout the middle part of the century, most of the town’s citizens, seeking medical services, became familiar with the building. The sinks in Dr. Hoyt’s examining rooms are still in place.

Around 1957, when the Union Congregational Church bought the Haverhill Street property to use as a parsonage, the building held Sunday School classes for a short time, then became storage space for Christmas Fair materials, rummage sale items, and pageant scenery. At this point, it was known as the Annex and was in some disrepair. Around 2017, it was scheduled for demolition, Parsons said.

The historic building was saved when the Church’s 300th Anniversary Committee—knowing of the Food Pantry’s need for new quarters—asked to use the building as a new home for the North Reading Food Pantry. “The 300th Committee was seeking to commemorate the church’s three centuries in North Reading by giving a significant gift to the town. CCS gratefully accepted the offer, and in so doing, saved a historic building from demolition,” Parsons said.

The Food Pantry agreed to take over the Annex as a long term lease, and CCS and the 300th Committee began a joint effort to raise funds to renovate the building and outfit it for food pantry use.

As the North Reading Food Pantry’s new home, the historic building will have a new use – perhaps its most inspiring use – as it writes a new chapter in town history.

Those interested in donating to The HOME Fund capital campaign may do so online via its GoFundMe page at: or simply make out a check to “HOME/Fund/CCS” and mail it to: P.O. Box 626, North Reading, MA 01864.

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