On Thursday afternoon, people with carts and bags in hand — some with children nearby — lined Industry Center Road waiting to pick up groceries at the St. Johns County nonprofit Epic-Cure’s warehouse.
Due to inflation and other factors, the nonprofit food rescuer and distributor is seeing demand for its services increasing – and expecting demand to increase. At the same time, the employees are urgently looking for a new home in St. Johns County.
“It’s not time that the biggest grocery store (pantry) in St. Johns County, you know, went out of business… just for lack of space,” said Sunny Mulford, co-founder of the nonprofit.
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Launched in 2018, Epic-Cure’s mission is to “Eradicate hunger and food waste, protect the environment by keeping food out of landfills, and teach self-confidence through cooking classes for veterans and Title I schoolchildren.” .
“We are now salvaging food from grocery stores, vendors and farms and then making it available free of charge to anyone in need,” Mulford said.
To that end, the nonprofit is holding free food distributions at locations across the county and at their warehouse on Industry Center Road, where people can shop and choose what they want from the warehouse.
Susan Johann was also in line on Thursday. She usually comes every week to get food, she said.
“When I first heard about Epic-Cure, I lived in a building called Summer Breeze, and Epic-Cure would come to the building every Monday. And it was just great and made everything easy,” she said.
But after a change of ownership at Epic Cure’s headquarters, the nonprofit is looking for a new space, Mulford said. Epic-Cure has a lease through the end of the year, and it’s not clear if it will be renewed.
In addition, the lease can be terminated at any time with 90 days’ notice, she said.
The operation is run 100% by volunteers, including Sunny Mulford and her husband Ken. The nonprofit couldn’t afford market rent for a warehouse in St. Johns County, the couple said.
They’re looking for something at their current price of about $4,000 a month with 5,000 square feet of storage space that doesn’t need air conditioning, Mulford said.
A possibility is on the table. The nonprofit is considering buying a property with office and storage space for $2.7 million, she said. The nonprofit could rent out the offices and use that income to cover operating costs and build additional storage space, she said.
The non-profit association relies on donations. To create the new headquarters, the St. Johns County government asked for American Rescue Plan Act money to purchase the property, located off US 1 near State Road 207.
The county government has supported United Way of St. Johns County to conduct the nonprofit application process for more than $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, said Melissa Nelson, President and CEO of United Way of St. Johns County.
The United Way is working with a consultant on an application process, and once the district commission approves it, work can begin to accept, review and award grants, Nelson said. Any nonprofit organization in St. Johns County can apply.
Epic-Cure serves about 970 families weekly in St. Johns County and about 800 families weekly in Putnam County, Mulford said.
The work of the non-profit organization includes:
- Providing food for AmVets to cook hot meals for 125 elderly veterans each week.
- Providing meals at Title I schools to students and their families.
- Provided weekly groceries for St. Augustine Youth Services to reduce the organization’s cost of feeding residents and staff.
- Onsite food distribution once a month at the St. Johns County Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition.
- Weekly home deliveries to families identified by Flagler Care Connect.
- Cooking classes at Woodlawn Terrace Apartments and the Boys and Girls Club.
- Multiple weekly mobile pantry events
Visit epic-cure.org or call 904-458-7145 for more information.