Mark Stokes

In October, 2011 volunteer Mark Stokes carries food from the Trinity Episcopal Church's basement to the Assistance Center of Towson Churches' storage area across the street. The center has to store much of its food at Trinity because the space is cramped at its headquarters site in a one-story building behind Calvary Baptist Church at 120 W. Pennsylvania Ave. With a recent donation of $50,000 from the Towson Rotary, the center now plans to expand its facility, which will include more food storage space. (File photo/2011, Patuxent Publishing / October 12, 2011)

The Assistance Center of Towson Churches on Wednesday received a $50,000 donation from the Towson Rotary Foundation that will allow construction of an addition to move forward and thereby help the center to better serve its growing number of clients, officials said.

"The past few years with the ecomony, we've tripled the amount of people coming into the center," Executive Director Cathy Burgess said. "We would like to have more food on-site to meet the demands."

The ACTC, which was founded in 1985 by a group of 14 Towson-area churches to assist the needy in the Towson area, has grown to include 48 participating churches and serves residents of those church communities from Towson to the Pennsylvania line.

But as communities have been added, the center's office in an old garage at Calvary Baptist Church on West Pennsylvania Avenue in Towson has proved to be too small.

In 2012, the center distributed 472,965 pounds of food and gave out $178,428 in financial assistance for rent and utility bills to a total of 33,770 people, including 6,745 homeless clients, according to figures provided by ACTC.

By expanding and renovating the building, which is nestled behind Calvary Baptist, the ACTC will increase its efficiency while improving its operational cost-effectiveness in the long run, board treasurer Larry Fresh said.

The addition will extend the building 13 feet off the back, creating 300 more square feet of floor space adding space for privacy for clients meeting with volunteers, a larger waiting area and a handicap-accessible restroom.

Improvements to the back room, where food is stored and bags of groceries are assembled for clients, will include adding work space and room for more food storage.

Burgess said that at least once a day, in order to replenish shelves at ACTC, staff members have to walk across the street to fetch food items from Trinity Episcopal Church where there is additional storage space.

The planned additional room in the center's back room will become available when a new HVAC system is installed in the attic. The existing system now occupies a closet.

Only the office shared by Burgess and Director Maria Wetherington, ACTC's sole employees, will remain the same size.

The planned expansion "was not done for the convenience of our two staff members," Fresh said. "This was done for the convenience of the people that come in."

The Towson Rotary Foundation is one of the major donors for the project. Glen Arm-based PTD Custom Builders and owner Paul Dickover is donating around $33,000 worth of labor, Burgess said. Fresh said Carroll Engineering of Hunt Valley donated the building design. Burgess said the project could still use more contributions.

Fresh said that construction will begin right after the May 19 groundbreaking ceremony, and the center will be open for six weeks while the exterior of the addition is constructed. Once it's time to knock down the wall and begin work inside, limited services will be available at Immaculate Conception in Towson.

For more information on the Assistance Center of Towson Churches, visit http://www.actconline.info or call 410-296-4855.