TOWANDA — The Towanda-based Child Hunger Outreach Partners is in the middle of two major projects — a new building and a new coverage area.
CHOP is preparing for its expansion into the old Strickland Beverage building nearby, but the non-profit is in the midst of another expansion across the New York state border.
According to CHOP board President Rob Archer as he spoke to the Towanda Borough Council Monday, the organization is in the midst of finalizing plans to provide food to the needy in Tioga and Chemung counties of New York.
During a phone interview Tuesday, CHOP Executive Director Dani Ruhf said an expansion into New York state is something the organization has been working on for quite some time.
“There’s no border on hunger,” she said. “Other schools and other organizations have noticed what we are doing and asked if we could bring the programs to them, so we have to do our due diligence and work the whole process.”
CHOP will begin its expansion into New York state with mobile food pantries, according to Ruhf, and then look for space to provide backpack programs and in-school food pantries for students.
Ruhf noted that CHOP doesn’t want to step on the toes of other Tioga and Chemung County services already helping the hungry, “but we just like to go into an area and fill in the gaps where we see they are because no one agency can completely eradicate hunger.”
In addition to Bradford County in Pennsylvania, CHOP currently serves Tioga, Susquehanna, Lycoming, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Sullivan, and Wyoming counties. It also has a presence in the states of Maine, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri.
Once established in the Southern Tier, Ruhf hopes to expand CHOP’s presence from there.
“Our goal is to expand nationwide,” said Archer, “and Towanda, Pennsylvania would be the headquarters of a nationwide non-profit.”
Meanwhile, the expansion into the old Strickland building, which Ruhf and her husband closed on on Aug. 17, will move forward as grant money becomes available to fund renovations.
In the short-term, the building will house Ruhf’s office and provide food storage. Once grant funding can be secured, the downstairs will be a dedicated warehouse space while the upstairs will be dedicated to offices.
Ruhf stressed that any renovations will only be carried out using grant money, and donations will continue to be strictly dedicated toward providing food to the communities that CHOP serves.
Archer brought up the CHOP expansion Monday while approaching the Towanda Borough Council about naming a currently unnamed thoroughfare connecting Elizabeth and Washington streets, which borders the organization’s home, in recognition of the organization.
As the council looks into the process of renaming the thoroughfare, they asked that the request, including a suggested name, be submitted in writing.
Council members expressed their support toward the renaming, however, and praised the organization for the work it has done in the community.
“A lot of kids are definitely benefitting from it,” said council President Mark Christini. “Keep up the good work.”