Meritus Health, Horizon Goodwill Join for Downtown Hagerstown Grocery Initiative

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Horizon Goodwill Industries (HGI) in partnership with Meritus Health proudly announces $435,000 in funding has been awarded by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) SEED fund.

“We are constantly looking for opportunities to partner with other organizations and our community to address the needs of our neighbors,” explains Josh Repac, vice president of revenue cycle and clinical support services at Meritus Health.

Submitted by Meritus Health on behalf of HGI, the Seed Community Development Anchor Institution Fund will aid in the creation of a full-service grocery store in the Hagerstown core. This store will be operated by Horizon Goodwill Industries at its downtown facility on Prospect Street. The venture will provide fresh food and household staples to the entire downtown area of Hagerstown, which has been defined by the USDA as a “food desert.”

“When community members don’t have access to the resources they need, including fresh produce, their health suffers. This grant allows us to partner with a strong community organization to support the need,” Repac explains.

Ron Bowers, HGI board chair, says, “The inclusion of this type of initiative will not only help the people living in the center of Hagerstown, but the investment can potentially be the spark to launch a great economic development comeback for the downtown area.” He highlights that “the support and determination of the HGI board of directors was a tremendous inspiration to everyone involved.”

This project was sparked by a conversation between the leadership of HGI, Meritus Health and the Washington County Community Action Council around the Healthy Washington County Go For Bold initiative that launched in early 2020. That conversation centered on the challenges faced by many downtown residents with obtaining healthy food items and the resulting negative impact on the health of the community. Households within this area do not have easy access to a traditional grocery store and must often rely on public transportation or walk great distances to reach conventional grocery stores. While convenience stores and fast-food restaurants are within easy reach, prices and selections are not health-oriented or affordable for many families.

HGI President & CEO Dr. David Shuster states, “Given our experience in retail operations and passion for working together to address community challenges, it felt appropriate for HGI to take the lead in bringing this project to life. In addition to helping alleviate the food desert condition, the opening of a downtown grocery store will lead to additional jobs and allow us to introduce job training opportunities in grocery retail, creating new career pathways and supporting other employers in this sector.”

The store will be located at 200 North Prospect St., in a portion of the HGI Mission Services building. Individuals who may benefit from HGI workforce development services will be able to access case managers who can provide support for ongoing issues with employment, job skills, family concerns and other social issues.

Brooke Grossman, chief mission officer of HGI, adds that “access to affordable fresh food is vital to the health of our city. I am proud that we are part of a solution-focused collaboration to address the needs of our community.”

“Our hope is to continue to build on this partnership and continue to address and support the needs of all who live in the communities we serve,” Repac says.

Construction and remodeling of a portion of the Prospect Street building will begin in early 2022, with a projected opening later in the year.