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Mixed reaction to proposed Southington Bread for Life site

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SOUTHINGTON — School officials are happy with Bread for Life’s new proposed location on Vermont Avenue while some residents in the area are uneasy about the idea.

“I was really pleased that all the hard work and perseverance I think has landed Bread for Life a new home in a great place in the downtown area for those in need,” said School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. “Whatever the Board of Education and (central) office could do to support their campaign to raise funds moving forward, we will.”

Erardi and the Board of Education originally opposed the non-profit food pantry and kitchen’s plans last fall to build a new facility next to Derynoski School. After the proposal became public, many Derynoski parents expressed concern for student safety and opposed the plan. In response to those concerns, Bread for Life put the plans on hold. Since the Planning and Zoning Commission tabled the application in October at the request of Bread for Life , the organization has been trying to find another location and found a site without the help of a search committee.

“They secured the location and worked out the arrangements completely on their own, independently of the committee,” said Brian Goralski, school board chairman and member of the search committee. “I supported their cause and support their efforts and continue to support the organization.”

Bread for Life officials announced Monday that they had an agreement to purchase property at 31 Vermont Ave. from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The group plans to build a 3,200-square foot structure that would consolidate the nonprofit’s operations. St. Paul’s was Bread for Life’s former home for more than 20 years.

While school officials expressed their support, some residents had concerns about the non-profit setting up shop in the neighborhood.

Helen Irwin of 34 Vermont Ave., across from the vacant lot, echoed the concerns that Derynoski School parents originally had. She worried about people loitering after having meals at Bread for Life.

“I’m not crazy about it,” Irwin said. “We got small kids here.”

Irwin’s son, James Irwin, who lives in the same building, agreed that the location “doesn’t make sense.”

“Doesn’t the church own other properties around town?” James Irwin asked. “Kids play in that field. I don’t understand it.”

Helen Irwin said she had never been to Bread for Life and did not know exactly how it operates.

Bill McDougall, chairman of the nonprofit’s board, said St. Paul’s hosted a meeting with some neighbors last Sunday to discuss the proposal. There wasn’t a huge turnout, he added.

“I was there and it was fine,” McDougall said. “Hopefully it will not create a problem”

While the Irwins weren’t happy with the proposal, Bob Kowlaczyk of 42 Vermont Ave. said he could see the potential. He said the location was closer to downtown and better for the people who need services.

“I don’t mind it at all,” Kowlaczyk said. “That has been a vacant lot for years.”

Stephanie Leavitt, a Derynoski School parent originally against the first proposal, also said the location was better.

“I felt like they really listened to parents and their concerns,” Leavitt said. “Bread for Life does a lot of amazing things for the community.”

“I didn’t think their first choice of a location was the best,” Goralski said. “I think the fact that the search continued, in a lot of ways I think found them a better location.” (203) 317-2212 Twitter: @FollowingFarrah

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