Daily Needs Assistance seeks a new location in Plain City

After 10 years at the former Plain City Elementary school, Daily Needs Assistance (DNA) needs to find a new location. The school building is deteriorating. Late last year, many groups of volunteers, like the Jonathan Alder School Leo Club shown here, have helped DNA pack up materials in preparation for a move.

(Posted Jan. 26, 2023)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The clock is ticking. Daily Needs Assistance (DNA) needs to find and move into a new location by March 31.

The non-profit organization provides services and resources to residents in the greater Plain City area, including mentoring, tutoring, weekly breakfasts, a summer lunch program, a food pantry, a children’s free clothing store, and a monthly personal needs pantry.

For the past 10 years, DNA has leased space from the Jonathan Alder School District, operating out of the former Plain City Elementary building at 340 W. Main St. Late last year, the school district asked DNA to vacate the building for safety reasons. Due to heating issues, part of the building cannot be heated. Bricks on the exterior are unstable.

“It’s an older building, so there are a lot of safety concerns with its current structure,” said Tyler Jester, Jonathan Alder communications coordinator. “We’re trying to protect those who work for DNA and those who use their programs.”

Originally, school leaders asked DNA to vacate the building by Jan. 1 of this year. The school board recently extended that deadline to March 31.

“We want to give them more time to figure out their future and where they’re going to be,” Jester said.

DNA organizers have been actively seeking a new location since the first notice from the school district. They have received several leads but none have worked out so far.

“With a looming deadline, we need an interim space, and then we’re looking for more permanent space, as well. We’re wide open to creative solutions,” said Tamara Reed, DNA executive director.

The most pressing need is space for the programs that offer tangible resources–the food pantry, the Kids Kloset, and the personal needs pantry. The food pantry has long-held contracts with food providers. A disruption in services could lead to contract issues, not to mention issues for the clients who depend on the food, Reed said. She noted that the number of clients using the food pantry has gone up dramatically in recent years.

DNA needs 5,000 square feet of space for these resources.

“It could be a pole barn, a church, an empty building, a warehouse,” Reed said. “We can go as far as five miles out in any direction.”

She said DNA is prepared to pay for space.

“While we are a charity, we’re not asking for charity. We’re able to pay to rent a space or purchase land. We understand that things cost money,” she said.

For the time being, DNA continues to operate the tangible resources programs out of the old school building. The food pantry is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The Kids Kloset is open on Saturday mornings. The personal needs pantry, offering toiletries and cleaning supplies, is open the last Saturday morning of the month. Office hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The organization has found temporary locations for their other services. The family English as a Second Language class meets at Sharon Mennonite Church. The church likely will house the summer lunch program, too. Mentoring events are taking place at various locations.

“People always appreciate you, that you’re here and promoting these services. It’s easy to assume places like DNA will always be around. But we’re looking at maybe not being here if we don’t find space,” Reed said. “We care deeply about the families we are serving. We have every intention of continuing, but we have to find another space.”

Anyone with suggestions for new space for DNA can contact Tamara Reed at (614) 564-7365 or tamara@dnaplaincity.org.

School district’s plans
As for the future of the former elementary school building, the Jonathan Alder school board is working to determine next steps for the property and building, Jester said.

The district’s strategic planning committee has made the topic their top priority. The committee is comprised of community members, school employees and administrators, and school board members. The district has contracted with Steed Hammond & Paul, a company that specializes in school facilities, to guide the process and provide options.

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