St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Phoenix needs quick fix to food bank issue

Church wants City to speed up permitting process

PHOENIX - A fire broke out at St. Mary's Episcopal Church off 39th Ave. in Phoenix just after 1 a.m. Saturday. The church has been able to hold services in an outdoor garden, but right now, members are scrambling to find a place to hold their food bank for area residents. 

"The first thing I saw was just a couple of sparks," explains church member Mona Fore. "It was 1 a.m. and I thought, 'Who is barbecuing at 1a.m.?'"

It wasn't late night grilling Mona saw--it was an all-out blaze that scorched part of the St. Mary's Episcopal Church.

"I was just lucky I saw it."

But that's where the luck runs out. The fire damaged a portion of the building the church uses for a food bank it hosts twice a month. The church's solution is to put up portable trailers in an empty lot it owns next door so the food bank can continue. According to the church, the City of Phoenix says they need a permit first before putting up those trailers, and that doesn't usually happen overnight.

"The problem is, the quickest we can get on their docket or schedule is September," explains Father Craig Bustrin.

Father Bustrin says he agrees with going through the proper permitting, but is worried that the church will miss two food banks that would serve 300 families each if they can't go before the zoning board until next month.

"There are a lot of people here who without that food bank wouldn't eat for portions of the month," says Fore.

Fore isn't the only one who relies on the services of the food bank.

"Sometimes, my older sister would go without eating until my mom got home, just so we could all eat," says Stephanie Guzman, who's family visits the food bank frequently. Guzman says she's not sure what her family will do if the bank goes away. 

"We're scared, but we'll get by."

St. Mary's next food bank is scheduled for Saturday, August 16.

ABC15 spoke with the Mayor's office earlier. We were told someone from the city will meet with church leaders Thursday to try and figure out a solution.

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