South Kitsap Helpline buys Port Orchard Nursery

After waiting anxiously for everything to fall into place, the South Kitsap Helpline was able to buy its new home, the Port Orchard Nursery, this week.

With a $300,000 grant from the Birkenfeld trust in hand, SK Helpline Executive Director Jennifer Hardison said the purchase of the iconic business on Mitchell Avenue is complete.

“I am just still in happy shock,” Hardison said. “I need someone to pinch me.”

Just two weeks ago, Hardison was on pins and needles waiting for deal to go through, losing sleep as she thought of what the agency’s alternatives might be if its plan was derailed.

But the plan was back on track and quickly picking up speed after the deal was finalized Wednesday.

“Our inbox is filling with online volunteer applications to help at the nursery and the tremendously positive response is just so well worth absolutely everything we have gone through this difficult past year,” she said.

With the lease at its current home up in May, Helpline will move its operations to the nearly three-acre nursery site that includes a store, home and greenhouse, and will begin growing fresh produce to offer its clients and to sell.

“This is just off the charts in terms of the opportunities it offers us,” Hardison said. “The goal is to create a sustainable food bank that goes beyond providing food for the hungry. To generate agency revenue, flowers, plants, produce and vegetable starts will be grown and sold both on-site and off-site at local farmers markets.”

She said the two-story home will house the agency’s offices along with a clothing bank. The current storefront will be renovated to create a choice-based, self-serve food bank, and a teaching facility, complete with a commercial kitchen for use by food bank clients and the general public.

“Our basic mission is to feed people,” Hardison said. “This will enable us to feed more people, and to feed them healthier food. But it will also give us the means to help educate them about how to help themselves. This is going to raise Helpline and the services it provides to a whole new level.”

“I think it’s marvelous,” said Port Orchard Chamber Director Coreen Haydock Johnson, who explained that she was executive director of Helpline “way back when, in the 1980s, so I get real excited when good things happen for them.”

To learn more about this project or to volunteer, visit SK Helpline’s website or call 360-876-4089.

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