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When designing a food bank to support the community, Gary Inglis, designer with HKS, notes the two biggest obstacles were the non-existent funds and subsequent fund-raising.
For Karen Fuller, CEO of Community Link Mission (CLM), there was a similar challenge. "We were a fairly small non-profit seeing more clients than we could possibly take care of,” she reveals. “We didn't know how much money we had, which was incredibly frustrating.”
How did this dynamic duo, along with many others, help make it happen? By working together to fund and design a 10,000-square-foot food bank – one that alleviates hunger over six ZIP Codes and 161 square miles – with the mission of "serving the community through love and kindness."
Inglis recalls his first site visit, "It was a little house, 1,100 square feet, and 20 volunteers on their busiest day, Thursday. Going to see the operation was an invaluable experience, because we could see first-hand the need for help." And so began the intensive three-year collaboration.
HKS' team sketched and presented ideas at town gatherings. “Because it was CLM's first time receiving architectural pro-bono work, we brought in models from the model shop, allowing the community to visualize the design," said Inglis. “It was an exciting challenge and everyone learned."
As for the architecture, the original plans included silos, mimicking a main feature of the Saginaw landscape. Because of limited funds, the silo concept was retired, while a simpler, more efficient building came to life. Inglis reports, "We made it as bright and open as possible, and for good reason. People don't want to visit a food bank, so we tried designed an inviting and uplifting environment, a happy place to come. That was difficult; how do you design a food bank so it's a fun place?"
HKS' solution: transforming the new space, inhabiting five lots at 300 Belmont, into a vibrant, expansive community center. "Since opening, we've utilized the kitchen and multipurpose room with weekly recovery group and church meetings, Medicare and Medicaid food stamp distribution and an upcoming nutrition course,” explains Fuller. “We are kicking off the school year with a massive school supply event on August 16."
"Everyone needs to come see the change this building is making in this community,” she continues. “Clients walk in and say 'Oh wow!' Because of the new building, the visibility and impact has increased exponentially. It's almost like this whole community has been given a shot in the arm. They realize we need to take care of our kids, families and health.”
Fuller is at a loss for words when expressing her gratitude. "The biggest blessing has been HKS. They gave repeatedly, re-drew and dealt with difficult contractors. There was such an integrity involved working with them. I don't believe I've ever experienced anything like it."
Gary Inglis is equally grateful for the opportunity. "Working on the project was never a chore. It was always rewarding. In fact, the rest of the HKS project team – Brad Barnhart, Bob Milbrath, Judson Rogers, Carl Smail and Dan Trafford – all agreed that it was an extremely gratifying experience.”
HKS, Inc. is a leading architectural design firm ranked among the top six architectural engineering firms, according to Building Design+Construction magazine. Since its founding in 1939, HKS has completed construction projects totaling more than $77 billion in more than 1,498 cities located in 84 countries. The firm operates from 27 offices worldwide.