Littletown's dilapidated food bank has long history of neglected repairs

2013-04-12T00:00:00Z 2013-04-12T00:30:45Z Littletown's dilapidated food bank has long history of neglected repairsBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Everything's falling apart at the Greater Littletown Food Bank.

The modular building at Thomas Jay Regional Park has broken windows, crumbling walls, a sagging floor and a leaky roof.

And questions about who is responsible for fixing the problems only compound the food bank's already dire financial situation.

The building sits on county land, but neither county records nor food bank officials are clear about who owns the structure.

The food bank is struggling. It is two months behind on its utility bills, workers aren't getting paid and volunteers are paying for fuel for delivery vans, said food bank President Chris Kingston.

Now Pima County has threatened to stop payments on the food bank's grant if the agency can't figure out how to pay for insurance.

Food bank workers were hoping to be included in other upgrades at Thomas Jay Park, where the county recently built new bathrooms at a ball field and is renovating the community center next door. But they have been shut out.

County researchers are still trying to determine for sure who owns the dilapidated building - preliminary indications are the food bank owns the building. The the county owns the land, which it lets the food bank use rent-free, and provides free water.

"We just really need help down here bad," Kingston said.

The food bank helps people in Littletown, Vail and Corona de Tucson - on the far south side - with emergency food boxes, clothing and household supplies.

It operates on a $45,000 Community Services Block Grant from Pima County plus donations, including regular donations of returned or slightly damaged merchandise from Walmart.

Most of the grant money goes toward insurance and utilities, Kingston said. A year ago, the food bank cut its hours to four days a week.

Up to 12 volunteers staff the food bank on any given day.

"It's for the people," said office worker and volunteer Dollie Hurley. "There's a lot of homeless people. There's a lot of families that need the food and they're very, very thankful that we are here."

On a recent morning, people picked up food boxes that included sausage, cereal, boxed macaroni and cheese, rice, soup, peanut butter, canned vegetables and snacks.

They also picked up clothing, toothpaste and cosmetics - items that especially help people who are looking for jobs, said lead volunteer Ruthie DeHoag.

The building's condition is bleak.

One whole wall rusted out when someone stole parts from a cooling unit, which started leaking inside the wall, Kingston said. Volunteers pulled off the wall and replaced it with sheet metal.

Someone destroyed another cooler while trying to break in to the building, and the windows are broken regularly in theft attempts, she said.

Inside, the adhesive floor tiles are peeling up or missing, and you can feel the floor sink in some places when you walk through.

The freezers and refrigerators are old, leaky and freeze up easily, Kingston said.

The only sink is 12 by 18 inches, and it's not connected to anything and it doesn't drain, so Kingston uses a wet-dry shop vacuum to clean it out.

County Supervisor Ramón Valadez said he was informed of the situation Monday, and he is trying to find out what the county can do about it.

How to help

• Donate food, beverages and hygiene products. Items can be dropped off at the food bank at Thomas Jay Regional Park, near the corner of Craycroft and Littletown roads.

• Donate repair services or supplies, including cooling units, refrigerators, flooring and paint.

• Donate money to the Greater Littletown Food Bank, P.O. Box 22648, Tucson, AZ 85734.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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