Pantry is still up in the air

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NATCHEZ — Months ago, the United Way decided it could no longer financially support the Food Pantry.

A deadline was set — June 1 — to find another sponsor. That date has come and gone and no one has stepped up to the plate yet.

Mike Gemmell, chairman of the United Way said the only agency to show interest thus far is Catholic Charities.

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Executive Director of Catholic Charities Martha Mitternight said the agency is merely in the very initial stages of making a decision and things are tentative right now.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing that administratively to see if that’s something we can afford to do both financially and with our administrative staff we have, and whether it would be feasible for us to assume the management of that program,” Mitternight said.

Gemmell said Catholic Charities is the only agency in town that can support the Food Pantry.

“That’s the only option,” he said.

Sponsoring a program that feeds between 500 and 600 mouths a month requires great funds and a large staff.

“It’s very labor intensive,” Gemmell said.

Mitternight said she hopes to make a decision by the middle of this month.

Gemmell said the original deadline for the United Way to find a new sponsor has been pushed back to Aug. 1.

“The board decided that if by June 15 Catholic Charities cannot for some reason take it over we should give the clients sufficient time to find other sources of funding,” he said.

United Way has been sponsoring the Food Pantry for over a year and a half now, and in March the United Way decided it needed to spin the pantry off.

The role of the United Way is not to directly run such programs, but to be involved in a more indirect way, such as collecting funds for the programs.

“It’s not the role of the United Way to be in an operation mode,” Gemmell said.