Don Freese, Secretary of the Council of Churches brought forth the idea to collaborate with the town on the property they own at 530 Ohio Street, the former Pinder’s Restaurant property. He said, “A joint venture between the town and the food pantry would be further enhanced for the people. Especially for those in the community and surrounding area that are in need of help and food assistance.”
For over 25 years the Council of Churches has hosted a food pantry at Grace United Church on Plymouth Street. While they were not looking to relocate the food pantry, the city has a building that is handicap assessable. He said theri current location is not handicap assessable. Some have to walk up the hill and walk up into the church and then down two flights of stairs and then the length of the building to get to the food pantry.
The collaborative effort proposed would allow the town to continue to own the property and the Council of Churches would cover the utility bills, liability insurance cost and any other operating costs. The church council would also like to use a portion of the building for their office space.
Freese said the Ohio Street location would allow for a larger food pantry, off street parking, the ease of unloading food products from the South Bend USDA truck which is palletized and increased food storage space.
Gail Orangias, co-manager of the Culver Food Pantry said in March 119 families were served which totaled 386 individuals. The pantry is only open Tuesdays from 10 till noon and in 8 hours last month they helped 386 people.
Rich West, Culver Town Council member said, “This building is in terrible condition. Probably not very habitual condition.” He clarified his comment saying there are issues with the roof, he doesn’t know if the HVAC and plumbing systems are working.
Councilman Bill Cleavenger said, “I think what the Council of Churches is doing is extremely admirable, but I think as a councilmember, I don’t want to be in the real estate business. Right now we are sitting with two properties with one going to sheriff’s sale.” He went on to tell the Council of Churches they wouldn’t be happy in the Ohio Street building.
The Town of Culver acquired the Pinders property in 2019 when George and Tammy Pesek donated it to the town for the cost of closing and commission which was about $11,000.
Culver Town Council President Ginny Munroe suggested a brainstorming session between the Town Council, Town Manager and the Council of Churches. That was agreeable and they will meet at a later date to discuss the collaborative effort.