In this time of closings and cancellations, some community projects are still going forward as planned. Grand Central Station's new facility in Sherman is one such project.
Friday Executive Director Karen Bray took the Herald Democrat on a tour of the new facility which is located just across the street from the present soup kitchen, 1110 South Throckmorton in Sherman. Bray said the new facility is expected to be ready to open in just two months.
Started in 2010, the Grand Central Station provides meals to the hungry, but it also provides a lot more. Clients are able to wash clothes, take showers, access computers with internet and access other social programs. Since the COVID-19 crisis, the facility has not provided hot meals because of the need for social distancing to provide safety for clients, staff and volunteers. However, clients have been provided sack lunches in place of the hot meals.
Bray said while the COVID-19 crisis has caused them to change the way they seek to help those in most need in the community, it has not slowed down the changes on the way that will make the services provided much easier to access.
"We have continued meeting straight through," she said of the board behind the remodel. And the construction has continued.
Bray practically glowed with excitement as she showed off the building at 619 E. Houston, that triples the space for the soup kitchen and provides space to bring together all of the programs currently run by the group behind the soup kitchen. That includes the Dining car or soup kitchen, the Children's Express, a program that since 2014 has provided summer and holiday meals for children in need. It also includes Tools for Schools, a program that distributes school supplies throughout Grayson County elementary schools and The Greenhouse, a food pantry and clothes closet that has provided food and clothing for the undeserved in the community for 40 years.
Standing in the new facility, Bray said the changes are going to make sure that even more people can be served everyday. For instance, she said, the shower space will increase from one shower to three. The number of washers and dryers available for people to use will increase from one pair to four and it will provide more space for computer work stations.
"We are going to have more room for social distancing," she said. Increased seating area for the soup kitchen will allow the program to allow people to remain inside for longer periods of time during cold winter days and hot summer afternoons.
The new space will also allow more room for educational programs, counseling and advocacy for the homeless and under served.
In the part of the building that will serve as the new food pantry, Bray gushed about the new walk-in coolers that will allow patrons to pick and choose the items they want when they seek food assistance. She said it will be a switch from a program where people are given a generic bag of provisions to a program that will allow people to shop for the items they know their family will use and enjoy.
The plan, she said, is for the food pantry to change from a place where people could get help once every two months to a place where they can get help once a month because the staff understands that people face food insecurity every month when they are in need.
All of the changes, she said, are aimed at reducing the stress and supporting the dignity of the population serviced by the various programs support through Grand Central Station.
Bray said the new facility has come a long way in the past 18 months. Currently the walls are blank but the construction is going at such a good pace that the work is expected to be completed in the next couple of months. While they attempted to raise all of the money needed for the $1.2 million renovation, Bray said, the board decided to go ahead and borrow the funds needed to complete the project. So monetary donations are still one of the biggest needs for the organization. And, they need volunteers especially once things open back up to a as near a normal set of conditions as possible.
Once the new facility is completed, she said, some of the four programs might undergo name changes as they attempt to bring everything in under one umbrella and unify the brand, so to speak. What won't change, she said, is the dedication to serving those in need in this area with caring concern and respect.
Donations may be sent to P. O. Box 3173, Sherman Texas 75091.