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Food bank to deliver meals

| Sunday, May 13, 2012, 4:12 a.m.

A Jeannette food bank that the city has ordered to stop distributing food apparently will try to circumvent that order by delivering food to needy families next week.

Pastor Bob Pollick, who operates the Victory Chapel on Gaskill Avenue, said he will deliver the pre-holiday food to those who want it instead of having them pick it up at the church.

"I have to make a choice here. We're going ahead with it one way or another," Pollick said Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, it appeared the food bank would comply with the city's orders.

Greensburg attorney Deborah Jackson, who represents Victory Chapel in a zoning appeal, said she advised Pollick to follow the city's orders and not to operate the food bank.

City officials conceded that the timing was lousy for such a battle but said the rules don't take a break for the holidays.

Pollick would have to comply with two cease and desist orders issued by the city against the food bank, he said yesterday, adding he "feels that they told us absolutely not" to distribute food next week.

He was unable to secure another location for the distribution, he said. The food bank distributes food to more than 120 families the second Tuesday of each month. Another 50 people eat each day at its soup kitchen, Pollick said.

"It's so needless to stop people from getting fed," he said.

For food bank recipients such as Ralph Pierce, 66, of Greensburg, the timing couldn't be worse. He and other recipients were signing petitions to try to keep the food bank open.

"Why wait until the month of December when people are depending on this food for the holidays?" he said.

But rules are rules, said city Solicitor Gary Falatovich.

"The timing is unfortunate, but we have a job to do enforcing the ordinances of the city of Jeannette," he said. "We cannot suspend the ordinances for the holiday season."

The food bank at the Victory Chapel was not approved by city zoners when the chapel applied for a variance to operate a shelter for women and children, Falatovich said.

That variance was granted Aug. 18, 1999.

The city's zoning hearing board recognized the parking problems on Gaskill and attached conditions that Victory Chapel maintain a certain amount of off-street parking, Falatovich said.

About five or six months ago, zoning officer George Lender started to get complaints from neighboring property owners about parking near the chapel.

Victory Chapel officials assured the city they would use off-street parking. When they didn't, the city issued a cease and desist order that they were in violation of their variance and should cease operation of the food bank.

Victory Chapel hired Jackson as its attorney and a hearing before the zoning hearing board was continued. But neighbors resumed their complaints and the city issued a second cease and desist order.

Victory Chapel also appealed the second order. The zoning hearing board will address both of the city's orders at its Dec. 18 meeting.

Jackson advised Pollick not to operate the food bank pending the appeals, she said.

"It's very bad timing...I understand that," she said. "This is the time of year people need help."

Jackson had hoped Jeannette would allow the food bank to continue to operate pending the appeals, she said.

But Falatovich said the city couldn't consent to just the opposite of its orders while they are being appealed.

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