By Rich Place
The Bread of Life Outreach (BOLO) Center has obtained the former Colden Country Store — located right at the town’s main intersection — and hopes to bring new life to one of Colden’s historic landmark buildings.
The building, located at the corner of Route 240 and Heath Road, is right down the hill from BOLO’s primary location on Supervisor Avenue.
The organization, which began as a food pantry and thrift shop in 2009 and has since become a community center for a wide range of activities, has not announced specific intentions for the building, but executive director Pat Thoman said the group has “lots of exciting plans.”
“Our plans are being formulated,” she said. “We have an outline. It will be a new and different retail establishment to support the programs of Bread of Life Outreach Center.”
BOLO acquired the building as a donation, Thoman said, and declined to provide the individual’s name.
“The person who made it possible wants to be anonymous,” she said. “It just happened in a very whimsical way, but that’s all I can really say about that. It was gifted.”
Thoman said the country store closed about five years ago and the response from the public about acquiring the building, most notably on the organization’s Facebook page, has been tremendous. Earlier this week, a Facebook post announcing the building’s acquisition had more than 350 interactions — mostly “likes” — and the post was shared more than 100 times. Dozens of comments inquired about future plans and congratulated the group on the acquisition.
No matter what group officials plan to do with the former country store, the building will likely add another facet to an already diverse collection of offerings by the less than 10-year-old organization that started when the former Catholic church there merged with the nearby West Falls parish.
“In 2009, a group of us who were very active in the church decided something had to be done in the building — it couldn’t just be left,” Thoman said. “It was such sacred space. So the idea came about to start a food pantry.”
The pantry had two clients come in the first time it opened its doors, Thoman said. Last year, BOLO distributed 31,069 meals and served 3,140 individuals, according to data provided by the organization.
But it doesn’t end there. It also provided 71 filled backpacks for school age children; provided 70 coats, boots, hats and mittens; served 84 Thanksgiving meals and 77 Christmas meals; and provided 178 Christmas gifts.
The group also launched the thrift shop Gabriel’s Closest in 2009 as a source of funding for the services it provides.
BOLO’s outreach into the community goes beyond traditional philanthropic activities. Earlier this week, it hosted a speaker to chat about Colden history and recently hosted a free family event that had children dancing all over the main gathering room. It also organizes Colden’s Farmer’s Market throughout the summer, providing not only fruits and vegetables to the community but also live music and an opportunity to bring the town together, Thoman said.
“We want to be the community center. We want to have things for everyone,” she said. “That’s our goal — to be known as a place you can go in Colden that’s a gathering spot.”
The church is still owned by the diocese, Thoman said, but BOLO is in the process of purchasing the building, allowing it to make potential changes to the property, which also includes the nearby rectory, garage and another small building.
The BOLO organization is run entirely by volunteers and what Thoman described as a “very active” board of directors. It’s supported by donations and its fundraisers, and Thoman called the community “very generous” in helping to support BOLO’s mission.
Now the primary focus is on the former Colden Country Store and BOLO’s plans for it. Thoman said the group hopes to have the building open by the Colden Music Festival at the end of September.
“It will be very exciting,” she promised. “This will be a real presence on the corner.”