Moving in: VISTO transferring all operations to new hub

Cyleigh Kezar volunteers Thursday, Aug. 6, with First Baptist Church Next Gen Student Ministry to help Volunteers In Service To Others move in to its new facility off Culberson Street. VISTO is expected to be open for business Tuesday.

The hustle and bustle of moving a business is definitely exhausting, but it comes with its rewards.

Volunteers In Service To Others Executive Director Bekki Jones said Thursday morning, Aug. 6, that the nonprofit agency has been busy moving from its location at 1401 Southland Drive to its new facility at 1305 N. Culberson St. since Saturday, Aug. 1.

“We plan to be serving clients Tuesday, the 11th,” Jones said, adding the agency’s phone number and hours will stay the same. “We just hope that being more accessible to clients that we’ll be able to help more people in the community. That’s the goal.”

Moving day has been a long time coming for Jones.

In January 2019, members of the Gainesville City Council paved the way for VISTO to move to its new home after they agreed to rezone the old Mission United Methodist Church from a multifamily low-density district to restricted commercial, according to an archived Register report.

The 3,422-square-foot church will be used for office, classroom and pantry space.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place in May for the food pantry’s 2,400-square-foot warehouse.

The warehouse project cost about $112,000, according to Jones. Selling land donated “many, many, many, years ago” helped cover expenses, she said.

“I’m relieved that we are finally here, that the day has come,” said Jones, who has served as executive director for five years.

Moving does come with some growing pains.

“I’m a little bit nervous just because this is the first time that VISTO in 33 years has stood on our own two feet,” she said.

Previously, most the food bank’s bills were covered by donations from Petroflex.

Jones said the agency’s annual murder mystery fundraiser and the second annual Tug of War event the organization was to benefit from were canceled this year because of the coronavirus.

“We try to keep people’s donations for client services — for purchasing of food and for crisis assistance,” Jones said.

To help with some of the agency’s administrative costs at the new location, bricks will be sold along a six-foot pathway leading to the “work-in-progress” Pete Shauf Memorial Garden, she said. Shauf and his wife, Susie, provided the estimated 1,900-square-foot space on Southland Drive that the food pantry called home for the past 10 years, according to Jones.

The cost of the bricks are still being worked out but Jones estimated they might be $200. The announcement for the brick fundraiser is expected to be later this month.

Jones said she is “exhausted” from the move but excited for the future. She believes the organization is in a healthy place right now.

“I think we’re in a great position to continue to serve the community and just continue to grow so we can help,” she said.

In July, the agency served about 1,600 individuals.

Jones said she is also grateful for all the volunteers helping make the move possible.

“We appreciate the support,” she said.

VISTO is open 8 a.m. to noon weekdays. The nonprofit can be reached at 940-668-6403.

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