GASTONIA, N.C. -- A local food pantry said it is at risk of closing or having to pay for repairs it can’t afford due to potential code enforcement problems.
Living Water Community Worship Center runs the food pantry out of a house on Firestone Street in Gastonia. They feed about 300 people a month, most are senior citizens trying to make ends meet.
"Seniors say to me 'I thank God for the ministry here,'” said Pastor Andrea Gooding, who runs the food pantry through the church.
Most days you’ll find Gooding and other helpers unloading donated food and bringing it into the house. There are nine freezers filled with meat.
The house itself is more than 100 years old and falling apart.
"It's the sidings and it's the roof, the shingles on the roof,” said food pantry assistant Latrell McClain.
The church got a letter about the condition of the house from Gastonia city code enforcement after a neighbor complained.
The letter said the house appears to be in violation of minimum housing code, the interior needs to be inspected and if the church doesn't comply the city will get a search warrant to go inside. If they find code violations, the city will come up with a list of repairs. If repairs aren't done in a timely manner, the church could be fined $250 a day. If conditions are too bad, it could be torn down.
"I know without a doubt they'll find something,” Gooding said, referring to the condition of the interior of the house and the impending inspection. “We don't have the funds to do the repair."
"It's possible we'll have to shut down,” McClain said.
The church owns another property nearby, but it is not in condition to handle the food pantry. Gooding said if the current location closes or faces major repairs, they don't have anywhere else to go.
Gooding also said the city told her since the house is a food pantry, it needs to be re-zoned as a charity instead of residential.
That creates a second impromptu battle they are trying to fight after feeding the hungry for four years with no complaints.
"This is a blessing to the community. Now it seems like it could be threatened,” Gooding said.
The church has until the end of the month to meet with Gastonia code enforcement to discuss the house, its condition, and arrange for an interior inspection.