The Eagle Rock Christian Food Center has plenty of food--too much, in fact.
The food center needs a new home because the 3,000 pounds of canned goods, cereals and grains stored on the second floor of the Eagle Rock Covenant Church are too heavy for the building.
For six weeks the food center has been seeking donated space in the Eagle Rock area of northeast Los Angeles.
"I don't know what we're going to do, except we're going to continue to distribute food," said Rosalie Klauss, the center's director. "If we have to, we'll distribute from the sidewalk."
The year-old center gives packages of food to 40 families a week.
The rent-free lease with Covenant Church, which jointly operates the center with 10 other churches in Eagle Rock, was to expire March 7 but has been extended to April 6.
Covenant's pastor, the Rev. John Lindberg, said he doesn't expect his church to put the food center on the street on that date. But the church's governing board "unofficially said it would like to have the weight removed by that time," he said.
Lindberg said there has been no structural damage to the wood-frame and stucco building but "our insurance people came through and said you better not put anything else up there."
The church, he said, will be sorry to see the center go.
"Our board is very sad that we don't have first-floor space available," he said. "We really regret that it has to be moved."
So does Klauss. She considers Covenant Church a "beautiful" location for the center, she said. Besides the storage rooms, which are unused Sunday school rooms, the food center uses the church's kitchen to clean produce and to keep some food refrigerated.
The food is distributed Thursdays in the church's fellowship hall.
The center's directors, who represent the participating churches, explored relocating to another member church but none had room, said the Rev. Paul Ogle, assistant pastor at Christian Assembly Foursquare Church and the food center's treasurer.
The center has appealed to community organizations, the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce and real estate agents, he said.
Ogle said that the board is considering two rent-free locations but that each would require expensive remodeling. They are a garage at the Solheim Lutheran Home in Eagle Rock, a board-and-care facility for the elderly, and half of a single-story building in Highland Park near the Optimist Boys' Home on Figueroa Street.
The board would prefer a location in Eagle Rock, Ogle said, but "if nothing does turn up in Eagle Rock and the only option was space in Highland Park, then we would go that way."
He said a number of churches in Highland Park have contacted board members about starting a food center and the board is considering whether it should "go for a bigger scale operation."
As the search continues, steps are being taken to relieve the Covenant Church.
Three freezers used to store produce and meat were moved to a garage a mile away. Another 1,500 pounds of food is being packed for storage at a volunteer's home. The remaining food is to be rearranged in the five classrooms to distribute the weight better.
Klauss, who walks with the aid of a cane, isn't looking forward to the task. She sighed, rolled her eyes and said, "When I think of moving all of this. . . ."
The center needs at least 1,200 square feet on the ground level of a building with a concrete slab floor. It needs electrical outlets, a sink with hot water, parking and a place where trucks can be unloaded.
The center can afford utilities and insurance but not much, if any, rent.
"Everything we have has been donated," Klauss said, including the money for an average monthly food bill of $400. Purchases are supplemented by donations from churches and by food drives at a supermarket, she said.
Besides Covenant Church and Christian Assembly, the coalition consists of Eagle Rock Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, St. Dominic's Catholic Church, Eagle Rock Church of the Nazarene, Seventh-Day Adventist, Eagle Rock Baptist Church, Occidental United Presbyterian Church, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Eagle Rock Presbyterian Church and United Church of Eagle Rock Methodist-United Church of Christ.
Klauss said the center serves about 190 people, largely from families who live in the Eagle Rock area and have been referred by the pastors of the participating churches.
Some of the families have been longtime residents and others are "people from out of state looking for jobs," Klauss said. The center doesn't handle much of the Los Angeles area's large transient population, she said.
When the food center opened, it served only five people, and its growth caught everyone by surprise, Klauss said.
"We had no idea we would grow to the point where we would have to stockpile this much food," she said. "We knew there was hunger in Eagle Rock, but we had no idea."