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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Van Nuys

Timely Donation Keeps Kitchen Open

September 13, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY

A cash donation from a storage rental company on Tuesday saved an organization that provides free meals for the homeless on skid row from having to close its kitchen.

Glendale-based Public Storage Inc. bought the property next to its Van Nuys warehouse four months ago, forcing the Frontline Foundation to find a new home.

The foundation operates on a shoestring budget of $40,000 a year, funded mainly by donors who give $3 to $10 each a month. Every day, volunteers prepare enough food to serve nearly 200 homeless people.

Ray Castellani, Frontline founder, said he initially thought the $6,000 cost to relocate would cause the foundation to close down.

"This [donation] frees us up to have the peace of mind to continue fulfilling this little calling for this little kitchen," Castellani said. "I'm flabbergasted at this great turn-around. I am looking at it as another intervention of something a little bigger than all of us."

Two weeks ago, Castellani signed a lease agreement for a new space at Tampa Avenue and Parthenia Street near the Northridge Costco, where he for years has bought the foundation's supplies.

The 67-year-old former skid row resident said he feared he might have to shut down the Frontline kitchen until money was raised for the move. But on Tuesday, Public Storage, his former neighbor, came to the organization's aid with a $5,000 donation.

"We're sympathetic to the plight of the kitchen," said Carl Phelps, a senior vice president who oversees real estate transactions for Public Storage. "They are doing a good service, and we want to accommodate them any way we can."

This is not the first time the foundation has faced possible closure. It nearly shut down in 1993 when donations dwindled. The organization rebounded after a fund drive, said Castellani, who in 1995 received the President's Service Award from President Clinton.

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