AIDS food pantry forced to move

Posted on 13 Oct 2008 at 8:03pm
By John Wright – News Editor

Resource Center seeks new site, needs funds for relocation


Volunteer Raymond "Roxi" Ditmore, left, helps client Tony Santiago bag his groceries Monday, Nov. 10, at the Resource Center of Dallas’ HIV/AIDS food pantry on Cedar Springs Road. Ditmore, who’s also a client, and Santiago are among more than 1,900 people who account for 26,500 visits to the pantry each year, according to the Resource Center of Dallas.

One day a week, Tony Santiago rides the DART train, then the bus from his apartment on Park Lane in North Dallas to pick up groceries at the Resource Center of Dallas’ HIV/AIDS food pantry.

But it soon may become even more difficult for the 44-year-old Santiago to access the pantry, which is being forced to move from its home of two decades behind Crossroads Market on Cedar Springs Road.

"It depends where it’s at," Santiago said when asked about how the move might affect him as he loaded groceries into his backpack at the pantry this week. "Wherever it’s at, I’m going to try to get here. It would be nice if they’re able to move it somewhere where you’re able to get to it."

Raymond "Roxi" Ditmore, 24, a client who also volunteers at the pantry and was helping Santiago load his backpack, said he’s worried about the upcoming move because he walks to the pantry from his apartment near Love Field.

"I don’t have the money to take the bus every day," Ditmore said.

"This right here is hard for a lot of people to get to on its own," Ditmore added. "If we don’t know where we’re going to move to, how do we know if they’re going to be able to get to us to get what they need to survive? My biggest fear is we’re not going to have enough time to let people know where we’re going."

Santiago and Ditmore were echoing the concerns of Resource Center officials, who this week announced that the lease for the pantry won’t be renewed at the end of the year.

Harry B. Lucas Companies, which manages the property for owner the Sachs family, said in a letter to RCD officials dated Oct. 22 that the building must be vacated because it’s in need of major repairs, including replacement of a deteriorating rear wall.


Mike McKay, executive director of The Resource Center of Dallas, promised the food pantry’s forced move would not disrupt client services.

The news left RCD officials scrambling to find a new home for the grocery store-style pantry, which receives upward of 26,500 visits from more than 1,900 low-income people with HIV/AIDS each year.

Mike McKay, RCD’s executive director, vowed this week that the move won’t result in a disruption of service for pantry clients. But McKay added that it comes at a bad time because demand typically spikes during the holidays, and he said RCD didn’t budget for the move, which is expected to cost $25,000.

"It creates a significant problem for us," McKay said. "It isn’t going to be easy. We’re asking for help right now with moving expenses. We’ve got to move and we’ve got to move fast."

As of Tuesday, Nov. 11, the property owner had agreed to allow the pantry to stay until the end of January, and Miller Coors pledged to match donations for the move up to $5,000.

RCD officials said they’ve identified eight potential sites to lease for the pantry. They said they’re committed to keeping it in the Oak Lawn area and accessible to public transportation.

"A lot of our clients have centered their lives in this area because of the access to services," said Micki Garrison, who manages the day-to-day operations of both the food pantry and RCD’s hot meals program. "Our hope is we can find something very, very close."



   
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2008.


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