After the Pierson Town Council denied nonprofit organization Food Brings Hope’s request to set up a permanent shop in the town’s vacant new Town Center complex, the nonprofit has backed out of the town entirely.
Food Brings Hope wanted to take over four classrooms in the Town Center and to use the cafeteria several times per week at a cost of $1 per year for 10 years. The draft lease also had the town on the hook for utilities in the rooms.
According to a letter from Food Brings Hope Community founder Forough Hosseini sent to Pierson Mayor Samuel G.S. Bennett, the decision came after harsh comments made by members of the public, and the Town Council’s refusal to negotiate.
“I want to assure every member of the Town Council that we will honor your wishes,” Hosseini wrote. “By voting down the lease agreement, versus tabling the agenda item as recommended by your Town Attorney, we realized you are not interested in working with FBHC. We understand and appreciate that it’s your town and you know what is best for your community.”
Beginning next year, Hosseini said, all programs operated by Food Brings Hope in Pierson, including its Pierson Pantry Program, will be discontinued.
“Starting in January 2023, we will redirect our services to the other areas of the two counties we serve; we have a long waiting list,” she wrote. “… If at any time in the future, you elect to invite FBHC to offer programs in your community, we are open to hearing from you, in writing.”
While Food Brings Hope will offer assistance to the town of Pierson if the Town Council requests it, Hosseini said, the organization will cease regular operations in Pierson, where it has regularly fed and clothed residents, taught classes in nutrition, and assisted Piersonites with connecting with governmental agencies, to the tune of about $250,000 a year.
“They’re going to miss out on a lot of valuable resources that we have contributed to their community,” Mamie Oatis told The Beacon. “We’re helping people who, right now, feel like they’re hopeless.”
Oatis is Food Brings Hope’s community operations director, and she has frequented Pierson for work with the nonprofit for six years.
“I’ve seen births, I’ve heard about deaths, I’ve heard about bear attacks in the neighborhood,” Oatis said. “I’m really gonna miss it.”
Pierson Town Council Member Sergia Cardenas wasn’t present at the meeting when the Town Council rejected the draft lease proposed by Food Brings Hope, but she said she recognized the burden the cost of the venture would have had on the small town’s residents.
“While I appreciate the valuable services FBH provides, the contract conditions are unfavorable, hence we are limited tax base,” she said. “However, I think we could have sat down and negotiated something that would benefit us all.”
Many people who take advantage of Food Brings Hope’s programs in Pierson — which include a food pantry and after-school programs for young children — are seniors or people who need assistance navigating the school system, Oatis said.
Food Brings Hope will hold its final community activity in Pierson, its annual Hope for the Holidays event, at the Mission San José of St. Peter Catholic Church 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13.
LETTER FROM FOOD BRINGS HOPE FOUNDER FOROUGH HOSSEINI TO PIERSON MAYOR SAMUEL BENNETT