Food Pantry recipients line up for the 11:00am opening last Wednesday
The Grace Seventh Day Adventist Church is situated amongst some of Hartford's most expensive homes in the elite West End. It has been there since the 1940's operating as a church, nestled back from the Street on Prospect Avenue. Most people probably have never paid it any attention as they drive by gated homes close to Elizabeth Park and the Governor's residence. The building is well kept , the landscaping well maintained.
Apparently at least one part of the Church ministry though is not a good fit with the gated homes.
The Segarra/Ortiz gated residence , above
One of the gated homes is owned by the husband of Hartford's Mayor, Charlie Ortiz and sits about 2 blocks from the Grace Food Pantry. The gated residence is also the home of Mayor Segarra. Other than traffic concerns, I am unsure what the actual complaints regarding the Pantry are. I went to the Pantry last Wednesday to observe the operation first hand.
The Pantry attracted roughly 150 people, some arriving by car, some walking, many took the bus to the closest bus stop and walked the final distance.
The alleged parking congestion that is disrupting the area
The parking was orderly on the east side of the street and traffic was monitored closely by volunteers with the Church. According to volunteers working at the Pantry, their Saturday services have more cars parked along the street than the Pantry does. The clientele was somewhat interesting to me. It was a mix of young and old, all races and it pointed out to me the number of people having a difficult time making ends meet in our City and around the region
I have seen events at the Rose Gardens at Elizabeth Park and events at the Governor's residence, a block up the street cause more traffic problems
I spoke with quite a few of the people waiting in line. The stories of how they ended up there ran the full spectrum of explanations. There was the 70 year old woman whose husband had apparently been killed in an accident with a drunk driver last year. She now was finding it difficult to make ends meet without him and had just heard about the Pantry due to news coverage of the shutdown efforts.
There was a middle aged diabetic man who showed up walking with two canes to stand up. He had just had surgery on both feet to remove infections caused by his diabetes and needed the assistance of the pantry to be able to put food on his table.
There was a grandmother who stood in line to put some extra food on the table for her grandchildren. There were two other elderly women who walked the distance from their north end homes to get their food.
As I stood there watching people show up and their joy as they left with their bags or boxes or grocery carts stocked with food for the week I just kept thinking " but for the grace of God" that could be anyone of us. It could be anyone of those people living behind the wrought iron gated homes. It could be anyone of us that gets injured in an accident or is unable to work, It could be anyone of us that loses a job, It could be anyone of us that suffers a downturn in the stock market and sees their lifestyle change quickly.
Ortiz, Segarra's husband, told a recent meeting of City Officials that on one Wednesday he observed food pantry traffic impeding an ambulance and a a person in a wheelchair unable to use the sidewalk. You can read more on this issue here
The other interesting piece was that any stereotypes you might have would quickly go out the window when you see the widespread need for assistance. There were all races, young and old, mothers with children, middle aged men, all just looking for a little help from a church that knows what it means to be a good neighbor.
No one was turned away, no one was asked where they live or how much they make. And everyone left with a smile that their burden to survive was lightened just a little bit by Brother Paul and the other volunteers. at Grace Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Can anyone explain to me how ministering to the needy is a bad thing. I would think that is exactly what a church's ministry is all about and definitely comes under their zoning use as a Church.
In one of the poorest cities in the country, with a Mayor that claims he was forced to live on the streets and was homeless himself, it just seems odd to me that any organization or individual could possibly fight a food pantry that seems to have very little impact on the neighborhood in which it resides, other than feeding those in need once a week