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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | MOORPARK

Food Bank Damaged by Fire Reopens

July 13, 1999|MILO PEINEMANN

Moorpark's only food bank, closed since late May after a fire, has reopened for business.

A fire sparked by a faulty copy machine hit the 1st Street building housing the Moorpark Pantry on May 29, closing the facility until it reopened last week in a temporary location at old Holy Cross Catholic Church mission at Magnolia and Everett streets.

Most of the organization's records were saved, although they are now water-stained and smell of smoke.

But food bank volunteers had to throw out all the stored food and start collecting from scratch to serve the more than 500 families who use the facility each month.

Senior caseworker Ruben Castro had hoped to reopen before the end of June. Although it took just two weeks to get the phone working and pack food into the Holy Cross mission, it took another three to work through permits, paperwork and other logistic issues, he said.

Castro had to turn away the needy, taking down their numbers and promising to call them once the pantry's doors reopened.

Now that the pantry is open, families can once again stop by for bread, food and clothing.

The Moorpark Pantry, a Catholic Charities Ventura County program, has provided food, clothes and assistance with mortgages and rent for more than 25 years.

Diane Martell, regional director for Catholic Charities Ventura County, said that after the fire, she drove around looking for possible new locations. So far, the lowest rent for the amount of space Catholic Charities needs is around $2,000 a month, an added expense that comes to the organization during lean times.

"We live day to day just like any of our clients," Martell said.

Space is so tight in the Moorpark Pantry's temporary location that donations of furniture and appliances cannot be accepted for now.

Castro said the pantry has had to change the way it works to accommodate the smaller space. But that's not stopping him from continuing to take food donations.

Bob Nelson, a custodian with Holy Cross Catholic Church, dropped by Monday with bags of food from the church, which like the area's other major churches and local schools supply most of the local food and clothing donations.

Nelson said the news that the pantry had been burned out was devastating. "You just hope it wasn't as bad as everybody said it was. But it was," he said. "Everybody brings food to the pantry. It's a community program."

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