Non-profit proposes food closet in former Cannon Street School

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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A non-profit is seeking the use of a portion of the former Cannon Street School to offer a community food bank, but much of the building needs to be in order, and necessary renovations could put a damper on the proposed plans.

Stephanie Ford, CEO of the Atlanta-based non-profit Area in Need Missionary House, proposed the food bank to the LaGrange City Council during their work session on July 13.  Ford said the non-profit is located in Riverdale, but she is a LaGrange native.

“I was born and raised here. I went to LaGrange High School, graduated and moved to Atlanta.  Right now, I have a ministry in Atlanta,” Ford said.

Ford currently runs a food pantry and clothing closet that assists men, women and children who live in hotels and extended stays. She said that part of their mission is to feed the homeless and bring love and hope back to communities.

Because of her local connection, Ford opened up a branch of the ministry in LaGrange in 2020 once she saw there was a need. Tall Pines Apartments, Amberwood Apartments and the local Motel 6 have been some of the group’s focuses since their work started in LaGrange.

“We have been servicing Amberwood for two and a half years now. We actually go to Amberwood every fourth Saturday, and we provide lunch necessities to the residents there,” Ford said.

According to Ford, the group has provided over 140,000 pounds of to low-income, underprivileged families and individuals at no charge since 2016. During that time, they also provided clothing to over 35,000 people in need.

Ford said she has received numerous calls about residents at Amberwood not having food, water, air-conditioning, and the overall facility conditions.

In response to the calls, the non-profit developed a plan to place a food closet at Amberwood for residents, but their management nixed the idea.

“After speaking with the Amberwood management team, they said that we will not be allowed to do that because it’s an Urban Development property,” Ford said. “Of course, we were not going to stop there because there’s always a Plan B.”

Ford said the alternative plan is to place a community food pantry in the former Cannon Street School, which could help Amberwood residents and the surrounding community.

Ford asked the city to donate a classroom from within the school, along with a single closet and a freezer for the food pantry. The group also asked for a monetary contribution of $18,000.

Before considering the monetary contribution, several council members noted that much of the former school is in disrepair.

“The building is in bad shape. I don’t know if you’ve walked through. We just got some plans to fix the roof. The main roof of the building is about $250,000. So, we’re having to bid that out,” Kelsey said.

Councilman Jim Arrington noted that the roof needs to be fixed regardless. Otherwise, the city must spend more to tear the building down.

Ford said they might have to go back to the drawing board because the roof might cause mold issues for the food.

“We can’t put good food in there if it’s pouring rain. Things like that cause mold and will start the food to go bad quickly because of the moisture,” Ford said, noting she would have to see the facility to determine if it would work.