MARSHALL, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — A local effort to provide food and clothing to the community is getting a much needed upgrade.

Marshall’s food and clothing pantry currently operates out of a small building located at the county fairgrounds next to the city pool.

The food pantry began back in 1992. What started with a few people and a pickup truck has grown and evolved over the years. The pantry has moved several times in search of more space to continue providing to those in need.

Gilbert Wright, Executive Director of the pantry said most people don’t realize the need in the community.

“Many of our seniors are having to make the choice between food or medicines, and we would very much like to see that go away. By providing the food at no cost, we’re hoping that we’re making the situation better,” Wright said.

Wright took over the food and clothing pantry in 2011. Since then, they’ve doubled the amount of food offerings and distribute about a quarter of a million clothing and household items each year.

“To have that volume moving through the area, it just becomes very, very difficult when you don’t have much space,” Wright said.

John Hasten, Marshall Mayor, said the food and clothing pantry has been a Godsend to the community.

“Jesus said there will always be poor and there will always be people in need of the food and clothing bank and so we need to provide that,” Hasten said.

With the help of the city of Marshall extra space will come from the construction of a new, handicap accessible facility.

“The city has property, how can we make it useful for everyone? And so we were able to come up with a decision to lease a portion of it to the food and clothing pantry,” Hasten said.

The building was paid for with funds the pantry was setting aside for this very need. Plus a generous donation after a local nursing home was sold.

The rent of the land for $1 a year for the next 100 years.

“We’re about 4300 square feet, where we are right now,” Wright said. “And the new building is 9,600. So we’ll be two and a quarter times what we are right now.”

Mayor Hasten was happy the city could help. “To step in and help, and let them, do what they do the best, because we as a city can’t do all those things.”

In addition to the on-site clothing store and food pantry the organization helps with many services for the community. They provide small scholarships to Marshall graduates. Clothing donations to local elementary schools as needed as well as for inmates in need of clothes as they get out of the Robinson Correctional facility.

And with the increased square footage, Wright said, “We’re always looking for ways that we can extend our support to the community.”

“It’s more than just the people who benefit from the food and the clothing. It’s the people who volunteer who get the blessing also. The city gets the blessing that we’re able to help those around us,” Hasten said. “Because that’s what the city’s for. We come together as a group, we make Marshall a place that is unique in many ways but it is also providing for the ones who live here, a better opportunity for life.”

Wright said as much as he’d like to say everything is covered, the pantry is still in need of several things for the new building, including equipment for the warehouse to move pallets of food, among other things.

Wright is hopeful to be moved in to the new building in February.