WALLINGFORD — Master’s Manna is moving to a new location on South Cherry Street this summer.
The food pantry, now at 46 North Plains Industrial Road, will relocate to a similar space at 428 S. Cherry St. The current location will close in late August and the new location will open in early September, said Gail Powell, chairwoman of the food pantry’s board of directors.
Powell said the food pantry has been considering a new location for at least four years and began seriously looking after the current building was put up for sale last year.
“We knew we were really under the gun to find a place that would meet our needs,” said food pantry manager Susan Heald.
Powell said the organization is “absolutely thrilled” with the South Cherry Street building, formerly home to Mike’s Blue Collar Bar, which closed in March 2016.
On Tuesday, Powell signed a five-year lease, with a monthly rent of about $5,200.
“This is like I finally crossed the finish line of a marathon,” she said. “It has been a long and difficult struggle with a lot of ups and downs.”
Heald said having the lease signed “alleviates a lot of anxiety (among volunteers) over where we will be in the future.”
“Things have been up in the air for the last couple of years.” she added.
Heald said the new building has a kitchen, something the organization wanted. Heald believes the layout of the new building will help streamline the work process.
“The layout that we’re anticipating, it’s going to consolidate some of our (working) areas,” she said.
The relocation will not change the services provided by Master’s Manna, Powell said. The pantry provides food, clothes and used household items to families in need. In 2016, Master’s Manna had 2,431 registered patrons. Powell said it serves 400 to 500 families per week adding 44 percent of clients are Wallingford residents and 43 percent are from Meriden. The remaining live in surrounding towns.
Powell said the organization’s board of directors has worked hard to keep the operation running since CEO and co-founder Cheryl Trzcinski abruptly resigned last October.
Powell said following Trzcinski’s resignation, the board “went from believing we were going to have to wind the operation up to actually taking the wheel and becoming very successful at not only learning all the ropes of the organization but also operating it in full governance.”
The board, which has eight members, has needed to overcome some financial difficulty in the past year. Trzcinski told the Record-Journal in August that Master’s Manna was four months behind on its $6,700 rent.
Powell said the organization paid all debts on Dec. 2.
“That day is branded in my brain, “ Powell said. “It felt good because we had been trying to get to that point for two or three months so it felt good to pass that hurdle.”
Master’s Manna has an annual budget of about $273,000. Its largest source of revenue is donations — about $100,000.
The nonprofit received $23,500 from the town in the 2016-17 fiscal year and will receive the same next fiscal year.
Last year, Leonard Rossicone, owner of the current location, told the Record-Journal that he will take a huge financial hit if he does not sell the building by 2018, when his tax credit expires.
Rossicone said at the time that it would be hard for him to sell the property with Master’s Manna as a tenant due to the late rent. Trzcinski praised Rossicone at the time for being lenient about the late rent and also noted at the time that if a new owner had purchased the building they could sever the pantry’s lease, which would be devastating for the people the organization serves.
Rossicone said the decision to sell was “strictly a dollar and cents item,” and has nothing to do with the food pantry. “I have an excellent relationship with them. They are super good people,” he said.
Powell said clients will be allowed to take extra amounts of food prior to the gap period between the closing of the existing location and the opening of the new one.
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