HomeCherry Hill NewsFood pantry feels ‘victimized’ by abrupt second termination

Food pantry feels ‘victimized’ by abrupt second termination

Cherry Hill Food Pantry volunteers Elaine Beckman (left), Lee Ciervo (center) and Janet Giordano (right), who serves as executive director stock the shelves at the pantry’s Brace Road location.

The Cherry Hill Food Pantry thought it was on the path to progress. A lease was in the process of being finalized, and it was preparing to begin the move to a Coles Avenue location that was generously offered to it by the Rodi family at a discounted rent.

But then the pantry’s executive director, Janet Giordano, received a letter dated Aug. 8 in which Matthew McCrink, attorney for Joseph Rodi, explains that Rodi “no longer wishes to proceed with this transaction.” And suddenly, just like that, the pantry is back at square one in its hunt for a new location.

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In April, Giordano learned that the pantry’s Brace Road location lease was not being renewed. Desperate to find a new place to serve the pantry’s nearly 700 clients, Giordano made an appeal to the Cherry Hill community. She asked if there was someone out there who might have a place that they could rent at a discounted price the nonprofit could afford.

In July, she thought her prayers were answered. The Rodi family offered a space on Coles Avenue in Cherry Hill. The place – the site of a former toy train emporium – was in need of a lot of work, but she was ready to tackle the task of rounding up volunteers to fix the place up. 

As of mid-August, Giordano was ready to go. Local architects had drawn up plans for the site, and the contractors had paid three visits to assess the space. She had found painters, plumbers and a variety of other skilled workers who were willing to volunteer their time to help get the Coles Avenue site in working order. Then, the letter came.

“I can’t tell you how heartbroken I am,” Giordano said. 

Now, with the lease on their Brace Road location up on Nov. 1, Giordano is “scared to death her clients” won’t have anywhere to go.

“We feel victimized by this termination,” she said. 

Giordano said she never even got a call. She said she doesn’t fully understand why Rodi entered into the agreement if he had trepeditions in the first place.

McCrink said when Rodi heard about the food pantry’s situation, he wanted to help. He said Rodi was under the impression that the lease would be on a short-term basis, but when the lease documents were drawn up and he saw the pantry was looking for a five-year lease, he just couldn’t make the deal happen. He said Rodi is 82 years old and fearful that he may not be around in five years.

“The truth of the matter is he realized he was leaving his wife and family a big headache if he should pass on,” McCrink said. “He didn’t want to leave his wife and children with a problem of his creating.” 

Additionally, the township was not willing to waive the property taxes, so Rodi would have been left to pay taxes that were nearly equal to the monthly rent. He’d promised the pantry to patch the parking lot and redo the roof, but the finances of that just weren’t adding up either when he realized the entire site would probably just need to be demoed at some point.

“All the money fixing it up would have been wasted,”  McCrink said.

Giordano said they’d completely stopped looking and had even garnered around $20,000 in donations to help support their move. The money is now just sitting in an account until they find somewhere else to go. 

Residents of Cherry Hill, Marlton, Mount Laurel and Haddonfield can shop the pantry once a month and take as much as they’d like. Pantry-goers can receive up to 175 pounds of food, and they never pay for anything. 

“It’s a disaster for the people who need us,” Giordano said. 

To learn more about the Cherry Hill Food Pantry, visit https://cherryhillfoodpantry.org. To contact Giordano, email cherryhillnjfoodpantry@gmail.com.

 

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