Tony Denorfia was right on target the other night.
Denorfia is a Southington builder and developer overseeing the proposed building on Main Street that would house Bread for Life. The nonprofit organization offers a soup kitchen and food pantry and other services for people in need, including seniors, and is looking to consolidate services now situated in five locations throughout the town that are loaned out by local businesses.
The proposal meets regulations and has passed muster when it comes to planning and zoning review. That was the point Denorfia made to the Planning and Zoning Commission at a recent meeting.
But while rules and regulations may be satisfied, there are those who feel it’s not a good idea to let hungry people near an elementary school.
The Bread for Life building would be next to Derynoski School, on Main Street. A slew of emails from parents, concerned about the agency offering its services next to the school, persuaded members of the commission to table the proposal and schedule a public input session.
Considering that so many parents are worried it’s probably a good idea to take this unusual step and allow everyone to get their concerns out in the open. It’s also an opportunity for Bread for Life to highlight the good work it does in the community. Bill McDougall, the Bread for Life chairman, has said he’s interested in resolving misconceptions.
After Newtown, no one can be blamed for being jittery, particularly when it comes to parents of elementary school children. But people served by Bread for Life are part of the community. They are your neighbors.
The proposed site would not just be next to an elementary school and the alternative high school, but across the street from the public library and the town’s historical society. In other words, in the community. It’s about as high-profile an area as you can get in Southington, just a few blocks from the Town Green.
It’s also not unusual for disparate aspects of society to operate in proximity of one another. In Cheshire, there’s an elementary school across the street from the state prison. Down the street from the Record-Journal building in Meriden, the YMCA runs a day-care next to the homeless shelter. One location for the summer lunch program for kids is nearby.
It’s worth noting that the Southington parents concerned about the building’s location on Main Street have expressed their general support for Bread for Life. They might not want it operating next to their grade school, but they’re not against what it does.
So there’s an opportunity here, in the ongoing conversations and the commission’s upcoming public session, to explore forging partnerships instead of exiling a service to the outskirts of a community.
It’s also an opportunity to talk about volunteering and teaching young people real-life lessons in altruism.