Construction progressing on new outreach center building in New Milford

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Construction on the new Danny Straub Community Outreach Center is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Construction on the new Danny Straub Community Outreach Center is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Contributed photo

NEW MILFORD — Construction is full speed ahead on the new facility for Loaves and Fishes Hospitality House at 25 Bridge St., overlooking Youngs Field.

The new building, which will be called the Danny Straub Community Outreach Center, is expected to be completed by year’s end. The nonprofit’s current location, at 40 Main St., will be taken over by the Northwest Community Culinary School.

Charles Bogie, manager of the project, said on Monday that the roof is in the process of being framed. After that, work on the windows and exterior trim will begin. Siding has been chosen, and most of the plumbing is completed.

“The idea is to make sure Loaves and Fishes uses every dollar that’s donated to them to assure a comfortable, safe, and energy efficient structure,” Bogie said.

The new building, which will be about 4,000 feet, has been “a major undertaking,” said Lisa Martin, executive director of Loaves and Fishes. “We’re really excited to see this building being built. It’s been a long time coming and a big dream of ours for many years.”

The building was previously owned by the late Danny Straub, for his family plumbing business.

“Danny was a philanthropic man, who felt deeply about the community,” she said about Straub, who died in 2012. “He helped a lot of people and nobody ever knew. He flew under the radar.”

The pandemic delayed the progress of the construction for a long time, according to Martin.

“Each stage that we completed, there’s been a waiting game in between. Finding the crews to be able to do the work was hard. The cost of building materials skyrocketed. It was hard trying to get all the paperwork through the bank completed when everything was closed,” she said. “It ended up working out, so that’s all that really matters.”

Loaves and Fishes, which has been in existence since 1984, serves anyone who walks through its doors.

“The only question we ask is ‘Are you hungry?’” Sullivan said. “While we do work with the homeless, a large part of our population is low-income folks.”

The nonprofit was originally located inside St. John’s Episcopal Church. In 1990, it moved to its current location. Loaves and Fishes is supported by private donations, local businesses and area churches.

On average, 25 guests a day come to the facility, which is open every day, year-round, serving dinner from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. There is a core group of volunteers that do the shopping and help out with all other jobs.

They have not missed a day throughout the pandemic.

“Pre-COVID, everyone ate inside in the dining room. Since COVID, we have been providing meals at the door — one hot meal and a bagged lunch to go every day,” Richmond said. “We are hoping to reopen the dining room, with COVID precautions, at the end of the month if the numbers go back and stay back down.”

Once the new facility is fully operational, its hours will expand. There will be showers, laundry and a lounge area. There will also be a give-back program to help people gain marketable skills, which will include computers. All job training programs will be taught by volunteers.

Additionally, there will be a warming and cooling center, and an emergency generator backup that will be open to the entire town in case of an emergency.

According to Martin, the homeless population is cyclical.

“There is always going to be a population of people that prefer to be homeless,” she said.

The most important goal of Loaves and Fishes is to provide a sense of self-worth and self-confidence, according to Martin.

“Serving meals is like putting a Band-Aid on the problem,” she said. “Handing out food is great for an emergency situation but doesn’t help folks move towards something better. It makes them dependent on the service.”

The ultimate goal, she said, is to get those they serve to lead a more independent lifestyle, for which the new facility will help, according to Martin.

“We want to help these folks help themselves,” she said. “Only allowing folks in for an hour a day, we don’t have the time to do that or the space at this point.”

On Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m., Loaves and Fishes is holding a drive-by homemade potpie fundraiser outside 40 Main St. Pies cost $15 and come with a tossed green salad. The funds will go toward a new generator, which is $15,000. For more information on Loaves and Fishes, visit loavesandfishesnewmilford.org.

sfox@milfordmirror.com