Visitors to House of Hope’s Stuart location no longer have to watch their step or duck through curtains of plastic sheeting to tour the facility. The renovation is complete and the staff has been giving multiple tours almost every day to introduce everyone to the newly renovated community resource.
On the North side of the building the walls have shifted creating new administrative offices and new carpet has been installed. Cheerful accent colors and spacious workspaces have been added to enhance efficiency and atmosphere for the clients, volunteers and staff.
The bright new Welcome Center is bustling daily with clients and other visitors being greeted by smiling faces as they enter. Here clients can enroll, get checked in, receive information and referral, visit with Case Managers and even attend appointments with partner agencies.
From the reception area clients can walk straight into the new pantry where they can pick up their daily bread and produce items or continue to the Client Choice Shopping area which resembles a small grocery store. New shelving and upgraded cooler units allow for easy access to neatly organized food items sorted and stocked by category.
Just beyond the first set of swinging doors now sits two impressive walk-in cooler and freezer units. These upgrades now accommodate significantly more perishable inventory than ever before. Thousands of pounds of dairy, frozen meals, deli items, produce, beverages and frozen meats can be stock piled here for use in the four pantries across the county.
Turning left away from the walk-ins feature another set of swinging doors opening to the newly remodeled warehouse. Food donation intake happens just inside the large roll up doors and the newly installed floor scale allows volunteers to roll bins of inventory onto it with ease. From there donations are spread among sorting areas where they are inspected and sorted into crates. Pallets and “pig pens” of food can be neatly stacked and inventoried in the spacious warehouse.
The upgrade that House of Hope is possibly most proud of has been installed in the southeast corner of the facility. Known as The Clean Room, CEO Rob Ranieri gets a special glow in his eyes as he tells visitors what this addition will mean for the community. Stainless steel countertops and sinks gleam alongside the newly installed Combi Oven. The floor is what strikes people the most; almost artistic, the swirling blue stained concrete floor and long strips of drainage offer a hint at the room’s purpose.
The Clean Room is one of only a handful like it in the state of Florida.Within these walls volunteers, interns and staff will be able to take ingredients and prepare everything from sandwiches and salads, to nutritionally balanced frozen meals for local households. Fresh produce donated in bulk will be able to be blanched and flash frozen to extend shelf life and ensure nutritious options for the clients year-round.
Perhaps most exciting is the enrichment piece that The Clean Room creates. Vocational training and internship programs will operate here with participants earning their food handling certificates as well as cultivating warehousing skills and even merchandising experience through House of Hope’s upcoming programs. A tie-in with IRSC’s culinary school is already in the works.
Ranieri offers “we will be able to assist clients in preparing for the jobs in our area that can offer a living wage. The culinary field and warehousing skills are
marketable on the Treasure Coast. With various certificates and verifiable experience to help them, these people will be able to advance their careers in this area.”
The Clean Room’s completion awaits a few more pieces of specialty equipment and then it will be ready to go. The setting will offer volunteer opportunities for businesses, organizations and families to take on specific food prep projects throughout the year. Groups are already signing up to fill volunteer projects scheduled to take place starting in the Fall.
To schedule a tour of House of Hope contact Dawn Abate by calling (772) 286-4673 ext. 1002 or email Dawn@hohmartin.org