By the time Manna House finished the move to its new location, owner Sissy Franklin was tired, swatting at flies and staring at papers scattered across her desk. Yet she has never been more excited for the future of Manna House.
“I’ve been here 23 years,” Franklin said. “I’ve always fallen over everything. We came from 1,200 square feet to 6,000. We finally have room to breathe, but we’re lost. We’re so used to functioning at full speed on so little, and God has given us so much here, it’s going to take us a minute to work into it: to figure it out.”
Manna House officially opened at their new Midlothian location this week after they entirely vacated from their old location Tuesday. Volunteers assisted with the move throughout October, but even with all of their help, workers were still moving pallets of food and equipment into the new location throughout the week.
Director of client services Norma Belcher estimated that the move took more than 300 volunteer hours to get it done.
“If we don’t have volunteers, it’s not getting done,” Franklin remarked. “The volunteers are the ones that do the backbreaking work.”
Franklin said Manna House recently took on the task of serving the community of Venus, which was made possible with the additional space at their new location. But it did not come without new challenges.
“In Midlothian, we’ve got like 20-25 percent of the kids on free or reduced lunches,” Franklin said. “Venus has 75-80 percent of their kids on free or reduced lunches.”
Franklin recalled a time where she was told of an instance that happened at Venus ISD.
‘There was a kid sitting on the porch,” she recalled. “She asked, ‘What are you doing here so early?’ He said ‘I never left. Mom and dad never picked me up, so I stayed here all night.’ How do you forget your kid?”
Inventory specialist Craig Belcher said the additional 4,000 square feet has already helped with their storage capabilities.
“Over there, we had our offices and our food pantry just in 1,700 square feet," Craig said. "Just to where we can bring pallets in, it’s been so much better.”
Craig estimates that Manna House averages about 60,000 pounds of food donations every month. Franklin said she expects to exceed that during this year’s holiday drives, which are going on throughout November and December.
“It’s going to be more than any year we’ve done in the past,” she said. “This year, we have Costco and Sam’s. We didn’t have those last year. We pick up more food from those two. I mean, it’s an obscene amount of stuff sometimes.”
“It’s so surreal to think of where we came from,” she said. “Really, a state of nothing. We started from grassroots. Now here we are, in this huge building; so much space to make a difference in.”
The Manna House will hold the grand opening for their new location on Nov. 15 with the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce. Franklin said she looks forward to seeing how Manna House continues to grow with the Midlothian community.
“I love this community,” she said. “I love the feel of this community: how neighbors help neighbors. It feels right.”
“We were told in the old place that when you walk in, you could just feel the presence of God,” she said. “I hope this place feels that way too.”
To donate to Manna House’s holiday drives, call 972-775-1800 or go to www.mannahousemidlothian.com.
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX