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Photo by Scott Gardner, The Hamilton Spectator

Photo by Scott Gardner, The Hamilton Spectator

Volunteer Charles Chiarelli helps stack donated food from the Stoney Creek Christmas food drive last month. Food bank organizers have been overwhelmed by community support.

Rent threat puts chill on Stoney Creek food bank’s Christmas cheer

By Laura Lennie, News Staff

Stoney Creek Community Food Bank representatives say a good season for Christmas donations is being spoiled by the city’s threat to charge $2,000 in rent per month beginning next year.

The food bank got a letter in January from the city stating that the rent is designed to “recover at minimum our operating cost, which was estimated at $10 per square foot” – or $24,000 per year.

Chair Wilf Rogers is being told the matter’s under review by city staff, but is nonetheless worried about having to pay up.

“I spend approximately $45,000 a year buying (food) and that’s donations that we receive and we’re going to give the city half of that?” he said. “We’ll close the door, we’ll leave. I won’t pay.”

The food bank relocated to the former Creek Community Church at 605 Hwy. 8 in October 2011.

It had operated rent-free in the old fire hall at 13 Lake Ave. S. for 19 years. The fire hall, owned by the city, was demolished this year.

Rogers said when the food bank relocated to the church he was told by Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark that the rent would be nominal.

He’s talked to Ward 10 councillor Maria Pearson who’s told him the matter has been put on hold.

“She said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re looking into it; don’t worry about a thing, we’ll let you know.’ When?” Rogers said. “How do you stop worrying about it? You can’t. I think it’s time that we know what’s happening.”

Pearson called the idea of charging the food bank or other volunteer groups rent at the converted church “absolutely ridiculous.”

She said the matter has been sent back to staff for review.

“Right now, I’m going to say the food bank is not going to pay. We encouraged them to go in there because they had to get out of the fire hall,” Pearson said. “Staff were directed to say go back and reevaluate this because we’re not giving a $24,000 a year bill to this food bank for Pete sakes; every penny that they get in donations goes into food, you’re not going to make them pay that’s ridiculous.”

Rogers said the rent concerns notwithstanding, the food bank is ready to assist those in need this holiday season thanks to ongoing donations from community groups, organizations, schools and individuals.

The food bank gave out 269 special boxes and food vouchers, helping 405 adults and 276 children for a total of 681 individuals last December. It also handed out donated toys.

“We’re in good shape,” Rogers said. “But I’m certainly worried about the rent situation, there’s no question about it. We worried for 10 years at the other location that we were going to move; now we’re here and worried about what’s next.”

Non-perishable food items, monetary donations or toys can be dropped off Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Stoney Creek Community Food Bank’s 605 Hwy. 8, rear entrance. The food bank will close Dec. 21 and reopen Jan. 2.

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