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Neighborhood Alliance takes over former YMCA of Elyria building to expand meal services to seniors, community

Posted at 7:15 AM, Feb 16, 2023

ELYRIA, Ohio — Hunger is an ever-growing demand across Northeast Ohio and now the need among seniors in Lorain County is forcing the non-profit, Neighborhood Alliance, to expand its kitchen services in a new space.

The 2,175-square-foot Neighborhood Nutrition Kitchen will consolidate the five kitchens the agency now uses in Lorain County into one facility. The building was originally the YMCA of Elyria, which has sat vacant since it closed more than a decade ago. In 2020, the building owner donated it to Neighborhood Alliance. The non-profit’s President and CEO, Alicia Foss, says she had been eyeing the building for years, but it was out of budget.

“I came onto the property and felt like this was home for Neighborhood Alliance…every space to me had a purpose,” she said.

It has found a timely purpose that has been deemed crucial since the start of the pandemic. At that time, nearly 600 seniors were wait-listed for home-delivered meals from Neighborhood Alliance. Since then, the calls for help continue to rise.

“As the senior population grows, the need is going to continue to grow. The team gets about 45 calls a month for people who need meals in the community, and we’ve just recently taken on additional area in the community where the Office on Aging used to serve and they’re unable to do so,” Foss explained.

The group will now be able to triple its food service capacity.

“We had multiple kitchens that we were operating in, multiple kitchens means multiple licenses, multiple staff, you know, food coming and going from all of our facilities. It’s just a lot of chaos,” Foss said.

While food deserts grip many Lorain County seniors and residents, the Neighborhood Alliance team hopes to reach more of them. As Foss explained, “taking an empty building and repurposing it is something that fits right in with the mission of what Neighborhood Alliance does.”

Everyone on their team, like Lead Chef Sonya Thomas, is motivated to make a difference and fulfill their purpose one serving at a time.

“It’s my passion…this is something I’ve always wanted to do…I can’t wait to just create,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can take this to another level, you know? Be an example to other communities.

The new space will also be the headquarters for many program services. A grand opening for the Neighborhood Nutrition Kitchen is set for this spring. Neighborhood Alliance is also planning a few surprises for the community.