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November 20, 2013

Closing the Gap: Catholic Charities nearing goal to acquire new, bigger facility to expand services

TERRE HAUTE — After nearly two years of quiet fundraising, Catholic Charities Terre Haute is going public with an effort to open a new, much larger food bank near the city’s international airport.

Catholic Charities Terre Haute hosted a big fundraiser and “thank you” event Tuesday night for donors and potential donors for the cause at a large warehouse facility on Hunt Street west of the airport.

The still-new-looking building was briefly home to a company called Reel Time Logistics, which closed its doors in 2009 after about a year in business. If John Etling, agency director for Catholic Charities Terre Haute, has his way, the structure will soon be home to a 37,000-square foot warehouse for the Catholic Charities Food Bank.

The food bank, currently at Etling Hall in Terre Haute, is presently only about 11,000 square feet, Etling said. The new facility would be more than three times as large.

“There is free food out there,” Etling said. Unfortunately, because of the small size of its current warehouse, Catholic Charities is often unable to accept all of the food it might otherwise accept, he said.

The new building would solve that problem and allow the agency to provide up to 1 million additional meals to needy people annually, Etling said.

“We cannot be the choke point, the bottle neck” in the food distribution network, Etling said.

Catholic Charities Terre Haute’s food bank currently provides food to about 90 food pantries in seven western Indiana counties. Among its many client agencies are the 14th and Chestnut Community Center, the Parke County Emergency Food Pantry and the Sunshine Shop in Linton.

“This [facility] will dramatically help us” get food to those in need, Etling said.

To get the new warehouse up and running, Catholic Charities hopes to raise $2.5 million, Etling said. So far, after two years of quiet effort, about 62 percent of that total has been raised, he said.

Earl and Tina Elliott, co-chairs of the capital campaign, were among about 130 people at the event Tuesday night at the large warehouse at 1077 Hunt St. Local, state and other dignitaries were among those attending, including Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Archbishop Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

It will cost about $1.5 million to purchase the property and install equipment, such as freezers, refrigerators and other equipment, Etling said. Another $1 million is to be set aside as an endowment to maintain the property, he said.

Etling said he hopes the building will be functioning as a warehouse for Catholic Charities sometime in 2014.

The current food bank warehouse at Etling Hall in Terre Haute is small and “doesn’t even having a loading dock,” Earl Elliott said. When people see the new facility, “It should be a ‘Wow,’” he said.

Elliott said he hopes to have helped Catholic Charities raise the remaining approximately $1 million within the next six months, but it’s difficult to say how long it will take, he said. Each day of delay means 2,740 fewer meals served to needy people in the seven-county area, he said.

The goal and the cause are as good as they come, Elliott said. “And it will feel good when we get there.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or


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