November 24, 2013 01:00AM
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD — The founder of Master’s Manna, a nonprofit organization that provides food to about 100 families each day, says the future of the organization is in jeopardy if it does not raise $50,000 by the end of the year.
Master’s Manna operates in a 6,100-square-foot space rented at 46 North Plains Industrial Road. The landlord would prefer that the organization rent the entire building, which is 11,600 square feet, said Cheryl Trzcinski, founder of Master’s Manna. But the organization cannot afford the larger space.
Master’s Manna already owes just more than $13,000 in past due rent. If the organization cannot agree to rent the entire building it might have to vacate by the end of the year, Trzcinski said.
Master’s Manna is a faith-based organization not affiliated with a specific church. It began operating as a food pantry in December 2006 in the basement of the Church of the Nazarene on Parker Farms Road.
“This place has been built on faith,” Trzcinski said.
While raising $50,000 is the goal, the organization urgently needs at least $25,000, she said. Along with rent, funds are needed to pay for relocation costs and reconstruction of a kitchen and dining room.
The future of Master’s Manna is a concern, said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. If the organization is unable to continue providing food to the needy, Dickinson said the town will need to find an alternative. Dickinson said Craig Turner, director of the Youth and Social Services Department, is looking into the financial situation at Master’s Manna. Turner did not return a request for comment on Friday.
“The distribution of food is certainly something that we want to see continue,” Dickinson said.
As of the end of October, Master’s Manna had served 1,194 people from Wallingford; 1,507 people from Meriden; 38 people from North Haven; and 34 people who are homeless, Trczinski said. A total of 2,835 individuals have received food from Master’s Manna this year. On Tuesday, the organization will hold a program to provide turkeys and holiday-fixings. Trzcinski anticipates 800 families will take part.
Since Trzcinski began her appeal last week, Master’s Manna has received about $500. She is working with organizations and individuals that have donated in the past. To save money immediately, Master’s Manna is cutting its non-emergency medical transportation program, which will save about $1,000 per month. Also, two vehicles donated by the Red Cross will be sold, Trzcinski said.
Town Councilor Jason Zandri penned an appeal for Master’s Manna on his “My Wallingford” blog. Those interested can donate through check, cash or by visiting www.mastersmanna.org.
“They’re in a tough spot,” Zandri said.
Trzcinski said she is working with a real estate company to find a new location. Funding has been an issue in the past. In 2012, a deal fell through for a warehouse building on Beaumont Road for about $750,000. The Meriden Zoning Board of Appeals recently approved Master’s Manna to move into a 30,000-square-foot building on South Broad Street, but the organization did not have enough funds to complete the purchase.
“I know a lot of people count on Master’s Manna,” said Town Councilor John Sullivan. “It’s the holiday season and miracles do happen. I wish them the best, and I hope it works out.”
Master’s Manna also provides shower and laundry facilities, clothing, educational training and access to healthcare through the Community Health Center. In addition, the organization provides counseling for mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence. But the organization’s budget is limited to about $195,000, she said. The town funds the organization annually, providing $21,000 in this year’s budget. Master’s Manna brings in over $1 million in contributions, according to IRS filings in 2011, but the bulk of those contributions are in the form of food for the pantry, clothing, vehicles, housewares and other items. Master’s Manna receives about 40 percent of its pantry supply from the Connecticut Food Bank, with the remainder donated by grocery stores and food vendors in the area.
It’s unfortunate that Master’s Manna is in this situation, Town Councilor Bob Parisi said. It’s difficult because so many groups ask for money, and there’s a lot of pressure on people.
Trzcinski said she refuses to take state or federal assistance. When people come to Master’s Manna, they need help immediately. Paperwork affiliated with state and federal assistance makes the process of feeding those in need much more difficult.