WASILLA — Kids Kupboard Founder and Executive Director, Lynette Ortolano is overjoyed with her grassroots organization’s most recent and exciting milestone since they started in 2015, a full-fledged facility that will serve as their main office and a stable, spacious, and multi-functional campus with numerous other buildings onsite lining them up for future growth and expansion from this point on.

“Everyday when I come here, it’s like, ‘this is home,’” Ortolano said.

The new administrative office for Kids Kupboard is located off Wasilla-Fishhook Road, near Shaw Elementary School. Ortolano said they moved in about a month ago, lavishing the long awaited upgrade from her small, humble office inside the Boys and Girls Club off Bogard. She it’s a tangible, secure anchor that ensures a bright future for their ever growing mission to feed children across the state.

The multi acres property contains numerous buildings and existing assets, including a large garage they intend to use as a gymnasium, cabins, a basketball court, and an abundant amount of storage capabilities room varieties. Ortolano said they’re hoping to make the most of the space they acquired, planning to establish community events, kid oriented programs and activities like growing produce, and other opportunities adjacent to their overall mission.

“What better place? The mountains are our backdrop here,” Ortolano said with a laugh.

Ortolano said that having a large, anchored administrative office with all their staff under one roof has given them an extra boost in overall morale. She said this symbolizes all the hard work she and her team put in all these years, growing a nonprofit to a sustainable point poised for a long and successful future with a living, breathing life of its own.

“They can come down the hall now,” Ortolano said with a laugh. “It just feels good to finally be home for us… “I could retire right now and feel like I’ve totally given everything.”

Kids Kupboard was able to reach this important milestone thanks to a grant from the Mat-Su Health Foundation who provided the property at no charge, according to Ortolano. She said they owe nothing on it, leaving room for nothing but growth from here on. She said she’s overwhelmingly grateful for this opportunity, reflecting the continuous stream of support flowing from the community, from individual donors to large organizations, government entities, and long established businesses.

“The community has been crazy supportive,” Ortolano said. “I feel so honored that our funders see the work we do... I think that’s kind of all the way around.”

Ortolano said their main goal moving forward is focusing on the transition into the new facility on top of their ongoing efforts improving satellite sites across the state.

According to Ortolano, they typically serve around 2,000 meals a day during the summer. She said they’re currently around 1,000 right now, but they’ll reach their normal rate within the next couple of weeks.

Ortolano said there’s volunteers working at 48 Valley locations and nearly 40 others all over Alaska.

“They make that happen,” Ortolano said.

The Nunley Park connex recently received a colorful beautification upgrade. Twindly Bridge Charter School teacher, Eric Rains and his students finished landscaping around the area, utilizing donated flowers, trees, shrubs and other decorative plants donated by Jacobson’s Greenhouse. She said it’s a welcome addition to the busy sites that typically sees around 100 or so kids on a given day.

“I think it just gives it a more homey feel,” Ortolano said. “Those small additions in addition to settling here [at the main office]... are truly what’s going to allow us to rapidly expand to meet the needs across the state, not just the Valley.”

For more information about Kids Kupboard, including food distribution sites and schedules, visit kidskupboard.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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