By James Day
The oohing and aahing echoed throughout the cavernous warehouse building.
“We’re so excited,” Silverton Area Community Aid board member Laura Wanker, who along with fellow board member Kathleen McCann, was giving Our Town a tour of the old Ratchet Brewery building in North Second Street on March 1.
SACA, which provides food aid and other community services in the Silverton area, has purchased the building from Ratchet. It will be moving its operations from the Silverton Community Center on South Water Street to the new complex in the next year or so.
Wanker and McCann noted that ADA bathrooms already were in place, pointed out which pieces of the building will be used for SACA’s services, praised Ratchet owners Will Mary and Dan Miletta – “they have been so good to work with” – and showed off a historic sign for Copeland Lumber, a tenant in the building from decades back.
Then, everyone relocated into the former Ratchet dining area for pictures, pizza and salad.
“It’s been really fun to see this all come to life,” said Ken DeSantis, SACA’s executive director. “We’re growing and we plan to grow even more. We’re lucky to have been supported by our community and we’re optimistic that our community will come through for us and we can open our doors within a year or so.”
The cost of the project is approximately $3.5 million, and DeSantis said SACA already has raised $2.3 million. The bulk of the fundraising to come would be spent on renovations, equipment and furnishings.
SACA is moving because the agency needs more space. Their basement quarters in the community center have posed vexing challenges for staff and volunteers. It is seismically unsafe. Access for unloading is difficult. The facility lacks private meeting spaces. Plus, it is “dank and dark,” according to SACA officials, “and not as welcoming as it should be.” And although SACA has done a creative job using its available space, it needs more room to expand its programs.
The need is there. SACA’s food pantry visits increased from 2,790 in 2021 to 5,031 last year, when they served 1,900 unique individuals.
SACA also has ambitious hopes that the new facility will become a community resource that can serve a wide variety of needs. The Silverton Coffee Club recovery program already is on board, and DeSantis said other groups might move in as well “and make it a collaborative space for a variety of organizations.”
The building also is home to the “Four Freedoms” murals. The four panels, which were painted by Tonya Smithburg in 2015, are in need of repairs, and DeSantis noted that “depending on the space needs of (SACA’s) community partners, there is a chance we’ll need to add an entrance and/or windows on the side of the building that currently supports the Four Freedoms murals. It is likely that only one panel will have to be moved to a different location on that wall.
“The murals will continue to have a home on our new property, and there is currently no sense of urgency for them to be repositioned or relocated.”
Norm English, president of Silverton Mural Society, said that SACA and the society are “working together to get this figured out. We believe that the depiction of Normal Rockwell’s illustrations during World War II are extremely important to celebrate and enjoy and the response [from the community] shows that [Silverton] believes they are important, too.”
A previous set of Four Freedoms murals, painted in 1994 by David McDonald, was destroyed when the Masonic Lodge on Main Street was razed in 2015.