Carport helps F.I.S.H. keep its clients dry

Orchards group jumps through several hoops

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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After F.I.S.H. of Orchards dealt with four months of permit headaches and code-compliance hurdles, it took just 90 minutes to install a metal carport to shelter the food bank's clients from the rain.

"It's a big relief," said Don Espey, president of F.I.S.H. of Orchards.

Only five clients are allowed to shop inside the building at a time, due to a fire ordinance, resulting in a line that can stretch around the parking lot. After a story ran in The Columbian the day after Christmas about the food bank's crowding problem, there was a flood of donations and people looking to help. Determined volunteers decided to make the project happen and install a carport -- no matter what.

Being a commercial building, the food bank needed to comply with Clark County codes before Espey could put a carport in the parking lot. Each time the food bank met an obstacle, Espey said it delayed the process by a couple of weeks.

F.I.S.H. of Orchards, 6008 N.E. 110th Ave., sits on two lots; the property line separates the building from the parking lot. To install the structure, Espey had to vacate the property line, merging the two small lots into one larger lot.

Installing the structure in the parking lot, near the wheelchair ramp, would block a handicapped spot. So, F.I.S.H. painted another van-accessible handicapped parking spot in one of the regular spots. Then they had to replace the lost parking spot. Orchards United Methodist Church, cater-corner to the food bank, gave the organization a reserved spot in their lot to be used by F.I.S.H. clients. New signs alert people in both lots about the church parking spot.

The first carport the organization bought didn't meet county standards for wind and snow. In order to handle 105 mph winds, 25 pounds of snow per square foot on the roof and 30 pounds of ground snow per square foot, the structure was upgraded.

"It makes you think, how

does anything get done in the county?" Espey said.

The steel carport cost $1,777.50, including installation by the company that manufactured it, Westcoast Metal Buildings; commercial permits associated with installing the structure totaled $1,658.75; and the signs and paint for the parking lot totaled $287.18.

The whole process was dizzying, but worth it.

"We got it and it was donated and we're happy," Espey said. "This will give (clients) a place to line up, out of the weather."

A plaque posted on the carport gives credit to those who made it happen: "This shelter donated by caring individuals in our community."

In February, F.I.S.H. of Orchards served 4,387 clients. Some days are slow at the food bank, while other days are packed with waiting people. The top three pantries giving out food to local people in need -- F.I.S.H. of Orchards, St. Vincent De Paul of Vancouver and F.I.S.H. of Vancouver -- serve about half of the hungry people in Clark County.

A food bank's work is never done, though. Espey plans to seal the ends of the carport with silicone, so water doesn't drip at the ends, and he wants to build another bench to put under the carport.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.