NERA opens new regional Food Resource Center
Ponca City Now - August 25, 2016 9:00 pm
By Beverly Bryant/News Director
The New Emergency Resource Agency became Oklahoma’s 13th regional Food Resource Center at its grand opening Thursday night.
NERA has moved to 112 South First Street in a building which formerly housed Discount Carpet. After an extensive renovation, the facility is now ready to serve its clients.
Mayor Homer Nicholson made the opening remarks at Thursday’s ribbon cutting and dedication. He thanked all the donors and invited others to become donors for the agency. He also thanked all of those who had parts in the renovation of the building and furnishing it.
“It was a real challenge,” Nicholson said. “We knew we could do it, and we did.”
He said NERA has served 200,000 meals a year and expects that to grow.
“With the economy across the state, our services are needed,” he said.
NERA currently has 50 trained volunteers and continues to seek others.
In the past, NERA primarily has served as a food pantry. That mission has expanded to include pharmaceuticals, utility assistance and education. The new facility includes a demonstration kitchen to teach food preparation; other instruction can be given in managing family finances.
“We have extended and expanded our purpose,” Nicholson said. “We are $35,000 to $40,000 short of paying for the demonstration kitchen and the awning out front.”
Rodney Bivens with the Oklahoma City Food Bank also spoke. The Food Bank partners with NERA to provide food at an extremely discounted cost.
“Today is about Ponca City,” Bivens said. “We usually see an increase in demand between 30 and 40 percent when a new facility opens.
“Right now there are 350,000 Oklahomans without food, and one in four of those are children,” he said.
“Hunger usually results for two reasons,” Bivens said,”either circumstances or behavior. Neither of those is sufficient reason to go without food.”
Bivens said he is excited about the future of regional Resource Centers.
“We were the first Food Bank in the country to take this leap of faith. We are fighting hunger and feeding hope,” Bivens said.
Tom Short, NERA director, spoke about the past, present and future of the agency.
“In the past, we handed out boxes of food. We started out with coal oil and chickens,” he said.
Today, Short said, local churches are the unsung heroes that keep NERA going, along with large companies such as Albertsons which donate food.
“It is a team effort,” Short said. “Today we are at a doorway. We will have a soft opening tomorrow. Now, instead of coming for a box of food, they will talk to an intake worker in private to determine their needs. We will have information here from employment agencies to help people find jobs.
“Our business is about caring, helping, sustaining. We are giving a hand up, not a hand out,” Short said.
The director said there is a new attitude that comes with the new building.
“This is top notch, not second rate,” he said. “We want them to have a good experience. You want to see someone anxious? Look at someone who is hungry.”
Dr. Larry Nigh ended the ceremony with a blessing before those attending toured the facility.
The new location is stocked like a regular grocery store, with shelves filled with breads, dry goods, fruits and vegetables. There is a refrigerator case and a large freezer for frozen foods.
For more information about NERA, to volunteer or to make a donation, call (580) 765-5372 or visit NERA’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NewEmergencyResourceAgency/