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Indy food pantry busting at the seams, in need of a new facility

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Posted at 7:44 PM, Sep 13, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — From the moment you walk into the building at Servant's Heart of Indy, you can see they don't have much space.

The conference room, which once was a lobby for clients, is overflowing with boxes and paperwork.

It's not messy by any means, just crammed.

The office space is small, and two volunteers sit at at a desk.

There's paperwork and filing cabinets. It appears to be a catch all for odds and ends they don't have a spot for.

A volunteer picks up the phone telling a prospective client they're closed today, but she tells the voice on the other end of the phone how they can help.

The pantry is not just providing food to people who need it.

The building, in a industrial type complex on Indianapolis's Southeast side, houses more food than the eye can see.

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Shelves are lined with canned goods, bread and other food items. Boxes line the table with goods to give to clients.

Along the other wall is diapers, clothes and hygiene products. Everything is packed into the space, many items stacked on top of each other.

A short walk across the parking lot you enter more storage.

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Furniture, toys, lamps, even a few freezers in this building.

Building three is across the parking lot. This is their workshop. Bikes line the makeshift second floor, an overflow space of items they keep on hand.

Walking through all these spaces, it's evident Servant's Heart is busting at the seams.

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Servant's Heart of Indy gives food, clothing, furniture and so much more to anyone who needs it.

But the organization says their need has grown exponentially, it's one of the reasons they need a bigger space.

"We don't even have enough space to sort. It's kind of obvious isn't it," Bill Boone said.

Boone started the non-profit with his wife more than 20-years ago.

"We don't do it for our own gratification. We do it for God's glory and Jesus's glory," Boone said.

It's a mission Boone says he felt compelled to act on. He calls it the Lord's work, but the families he serves call it a saving grace.

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"When you touch a life that is in despair and they leave with a smile on their face," Boone said.

Boone said their need has grown tenfold. It's one or the reasons they have grown out of their current space.

The way their operation runs now, volunteers have to sort things in the parking lot, then put them back at the end of the day.

"It's crazy chaos, but it's well worth it," Boone said.

While they make it work, it's not always easy.

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"We do what I call the grocery shuffle and play tetris by stacking things on top of each other because we only have so many square feet. But when you do that it limits the accessibility to what we have," Boone said.

Boone said having a new facility will allow them to have everything accessible at ground level.

They are hoping to move to land off Rural and Mertz on Indy's Southeast side.

The land is tucked away in a more residential area.

They hope to build a larger facility that will allow them to keep everything out all the time.

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They are also hoping to provide additional resources, like educational classes, to families they serve.

"We'll do whatever we can to help. Regardless of what it is," Boone said.

The land they want to build on has to be approved for rezoning first — A topic that's received some push back.

"I know the neighbors just literally don't want it here," Christina Smith said.

Smith lives next to the land that Servant's Heart is hoping to build on.

She says neighbors fear the level of traffic it could bring.

"We are a community and we should take care of each other but I am not sure that any of us are comfortable with it being literally in our backyards," Smith said.

Boone said he hears neighbors concerns but the land is their best option.

"We're prepared to minister to each and every one of them. We won't bite, we promise. We are here to serve you," Boone said

Thursday afternoon at the City County Building there will be a public hearing for Servant's Heart to meet with some zoning members and others in the community about the proposed plans.

No date has been set for a vote on the proposed rezoning.