BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Renovations are officially complete at the Community Assistance Network’s Dundalk location. A grand opening was held at the new facility Monday.

Melvin Icenroad is the first person who walked through the newly renovated client-choice food pantry, eager to get his monthly groceries. He’s one of many people CAN serves daily in the community, which is why the organization’s leaders felt the need to expand and renovate the space.

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“When I came to work a little bit over three years ago, it was very apparent to me that this was not an environment for professionals doing the important, critical, essential work that we do and our employees do, it was an unacceptable work environment,” said Mitch Posner, executive director of CAN. “And for the clients, undignified, disrespectful, it just was not a place that people could feel any kind of self-respect to come and get the help we could provide them.”

Along with a dignified facility, visitors can get exactly what they need.

“In the past, people would come out to get a box of goods, miscellaneous products. We deal with a lot of different needs out here, we have hypertension needs, diabetics, and some of the food, they just couldn’t use,” said Kieth Shapiro, CAN board chairman. “Now, people could get out and come and grocery shop, and pick out exactly what they want.”

Visitors like Emma Clary say having that choice now means so much to them.

“Especially now with the way everything’s going up… it stretches everything,” Clary said.

The renovation project broke ground last August. Posner says the facility also includes an improved volunteer workspace and a state-of-the-art conference/training room.

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“Organizations that deal with people who are facing poverty, I think we have a responsibility to create an environment that’s dignified, welcoming and gives people a sense of respect that we all deserve,” Posner said.

Resources like this can make all the difference in a community, he said.

“Our hope is that this will become a resource to the community, people will see it as a place where they can come and not only get food but then connect with our other services,” said Posner.

For Clary, she says she’ll take any assistance she can get.

“I’m a senior and I get social security,” she said. “I get food stamps but they do not stretch, especially now. So, every little bit helps.”

Posner says the goal is to eventually provide online ordering options at other CAN locations for clients in the future.

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