GREENFIELD — A crew of volunteers transformed the interior of the Hancock County Food Pantry last week by building 130 linear feet of 12-foot-tall shelves for storing food and other products.

The project was led by a team from Leadership Hancock County, a leadership development course which divides members into teams to complete community service projects each year.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community,” said Bryan Smith, a member of the leadership team focused on supporting the food pantry.

His and four fellow team members, along with five volunteers from NineStar Connect, spent over six hours building the pallet racking system on Feb. 16.

Jay Mills of Mills General Contractors, which has run the recent renovation of the food pantry, also volunteered by overseeing the project and making sure the shelving was properly secured.

Smith said the goal was to make the food pantry more efficient and safe for its volunteers, who distribute food to an average of 800 clients each month.

“It was nice to do something we know is going to be long lasting and will continue to bless the community in different ways,” said Smith, technical services supervisor for NineStar Connect.

His leadership teammates include insurance agent Brooke Palmer, public defender Myron Rahn, Cumberland police chief Suzanne Woodland and NineStar Connect’s energy advisor, Matt Straw.

Smith said the group started planning last fall on how to best serve the food pantry during their eight-month leadership class, which wraps up in May.

Their goal was to raise $12,000 to purchase and install the pallet rack system at the food pantry, which relocated late last year to a 7,200-square-foot space at 2040 W. Main St. in Greenfield.

The former tool rental business space was renovated into a wide open space without adequate storage.

Smith said the new shelving system will not only allow the pantry to store vast quantities of food, but will allow it to save money by purchasing food in bulk and taking advantage of special deals when they come along.

The new shelving also makes the pantry a safer work environment, said Smith, “which is important because the majority of volunteers there are seniors,” he said.

The leadership team was also able to donate two automatic electronic defibrillators to keep on hand in case of emergencies.

Longtime board member Liz Rusche expressed her gratitude on behalf of the pantry’s board of directors for the leadership team’s generosity.

“Leadership Hancock County did such a great job with this. We were just really thrilled that they took us on as their project,” she said.

“We now have virtually double the capacity of our ability to store food and items needed for the pantry, so this has set us up for the next 30 years to be able to serve the community in a much more efficient and easier way.”

Both she and Smith expressed thanks for the NineStar Connect lineman and groundsmen who volunteered their time, and for the businesses who donated generously to fund the project.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Smith said.