November 13, 2023 // Diocese

Miss Virginia’s Aims to Raise Money for New Parking Lot

For some members of our community, life has presented a lot of challenges.

When those challenges extend to getting enough to eat for those in Fort Wayne, Miss Virginia’s Food Pantry has been there to help, and it is the hope of members of the organization that a new parking lot makes accessing those goods a little safer and easier for all involved. To fund the endeavor, Miss Virginia’s has embarked on a fundraising campaign, and their current GoFundMe – an online fundraising tool – aims to make possible the completion of that endeavor.

Photos by Bethany Beebe
The need for safety has reached a critical point for clients needing food for their families. A parking lot fund drive is currently underway.

Miss Virginia’s Food Pantry, a partner organization of St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, operates out of the small former home of South Hanna Street resident Virginia Schrantz, who opened her home to anyone in need of assistance. That legacy has continued. Now open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for distribution of donated food, both the pantry itself and the surrounding neighborhood are busy with traffic. Greg Witte, Executive Director of the pantry, said that in the third quarter of this year, 11,486 people were served. While a large number in its own right, Witte estimates that only about 8 percent of those who enjoy the services of the pantry arrive and depart via a means of transportation other than cars.

In many cases, multiple families arrive in one car. Witte calls his most reasonable estimate four guests per car. Doing the math, that would mean 2,871 cars filtered through the tiny gravel lot during this year’s third quarter, turning off what Board Member Dan McNamara calls the “very busy north-south thoroughfare with heavy commercial truck, bus, and automobile traffic.”   

With about $200,000 of the $250,000 desired, the GoFundMe has been operating since September. Fundraising began for the parking lot project last year, and McNamara said that trying to obtain needed funds “is ongoing and will continue until the needed funds have been raised.”

Miss Virginia’s is trying to fund a 36-space parking lot to address what McNamara called “a bit of a free-for-all.” Guests leave their cars in a gravel lot, on the grass, on the street, and generally access the facility off a dangerously busy thoroughfare. The new lot, the planning of which has been done by Grinsfelder Associates, would enter off of Brackenridge Street and vent traffic in a one-way flow. Witte said the new lot would not hold every car that visits, but it would significantly alleviate the issue. Both Witte and McNamara are most concerned about the safety of all involved, and they believe this parking lot is the best way to address the issue.

“We have had minor accidents and many near-accidents because of these conditions,” McNamara said. “The traffic makes it difficult to get in and out of … cars safely.”

Helping Miss Virginia’s safely navigate the waters of online fund acquisition, Fort Wayne’s LABOV Marketing Communications and Training agency has been doing pro-bono work in creating the GoFundMe. The agency set up the crowdsourcing account, has monthly meetings with Miss Virginia’s, and pushes two social media posts each month to encourage public support of the endeavor.

Time is of the essence for the project, officials said, and work will not begin until the money has been raised. Bids from contractors are currently being taken; two have been received, and two more are in process.

“Assuming we can raise the funds, we are probably looking at next spring to complete the work,” McNamara said.

The GoFundMe contributions will finish a campaign already well supported, and one that is headed by an organization actively seeking to independently support capital projects. “We … have on the drawing board,” McNamara said, “one grant application to a local foundation that funds capital projects.” One anonymous donor has already given $25,000, a local foundation gave $20,000, a few donations of $5,000 each came in, and Steel Dynamics offered $23,000. The SDI contribution, according to Witte, was the beginning of the budget for this endeavor. “It has just kind of grown from there,” Witte said.

No capital is needed to change any distribution processes in place at Miss Virginia’s, only the lot in question. Another aspect of Miss Virginia’s that would not change is the help it offers patrons beyond food distribution. For example, the site has acted as host to HIV testing and clothing distributions.

Patrons will enjoy the support of the most recent GoFundMe campaign that can be found by searching “Miss Virginia’s” at

For those interested in donating, click the “Donate Now” button and follow the prompts, helping a worthy cause where even a little helps a lot.

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