WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa F.I.S.H. food pantry to seek new home


A Santa Rosa food pantry whose lease in a city-owned building is up at the end of the year has accepted that it needs to find a new home.

F.I.S.H. — Friends in Service Here — had hoped it could find a way to remain in the aging Benton Street building it has enjoyed rent-free since 1995.

Jeanne-Marie Jones, the Executive Director of F.I.S.H, bags up donated groceries for Sonoma resident Andrea Caudill, Friday Dec. 7, 2012. The nonprofit F.I.S.H. has operated rent-free out of a former city firehouse at the corner of Benton and North streets for 17 years in Santa Rosa but now must find a new home. (Kent Porter / PD)

The City Council in June gave the nonprofit an extra six months to do just that. But despite its best efforts, the board of directors recently voted to resume relocation efforts.

“We need to find a new building. That’s the bottom line,” said Dennis Hansen, the group’s deputy director.

The city estimates it would cost $150,000 to bring the former fire station up to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, plus another $200,000 in deferred maintenance over the next five years.

The city concluded it wouldn’t be money well spent, and so opted instead to evict F.I.S.H. and sell the building. The move would relieve the city of the need to make the repairs by the end of 2013, the deadline by which the city must complete $2 million in accessibility upgrades to various facilities under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Following news of the group’s impending ouster, numerous volunteers stepped forward to offer assistance and advice to help it remain in the building.

Some suggested getting a waiver from the ADA rules, but that proved impossible, Hansen said.

Volunteers also offered to help do the accessibility upgrades. But this proved complicated because of the removal of asbestos and the need to relocate the pantry, perhaps as long as six months, while the work was completed, Hansen said.

Raising the money to buy the building also didn’t seem a viable option because then the group would own a building that needed major work, including a new roof, Hansen said.

“We don’t need the headache,” Hansen said, noting that most board members are in their 60s and 70s.

Instead the board opted to resume fundraising efforts and the search for a new location. The group will be on a month-to-month lease as of Jan. 1. Hansen said he’s hoping to raise sufficient funds to cover the cost of the organization’s rent for a year, get settled in a new home, and then focus on a capital campaign to allow the group to purchase its own building.

The all-volunteer operation, which was founded in 1973, handed out more than 580,000 pounds of food to nearly 64,000 people in 16,000 households last year.

6 Responses to “Santa Rosa F.I.S.H. food pantry to seek new home”

  1. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Mockingbird – “So LAY OFF SOME MANAGERS, take the savings and put it where it will really be used “PRODUCTIVELY”.”
    Actually, the City has laid off quite a number of managers. Like rank and file, our low level managers are all overworked. While I agree with you mostly, on this issue you need to take off your blinders.

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  2. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    So first the city council decides to HELP the poor, disabled and elderly by cutting city bus routes deciding the “productivity” of the buses, not the people, not the riders, not the needy but the “productivity” of some routes isn’t worth it and increasing the riders fees now they have decided to starve these very same people as well.

    They surely can find the money to fix this building. They should have been upkeeping it in the first place. They surely can find another building for this very worthy group to continue feeding the needy. But they only needed $500,000 dollars to keep the current bus routes and they aren’t even trying to find it.

    It’s all about “productivity”. Not public needs, not the poor, or the elderly, or the needy, or the families, or the disabled. It’s all about numbers.

    So LAY OFF SOME MANAGERS, take the savings and put it where it will really be used “PRODUCTIVELY”.

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  3. Reality Check says:

    I recently attended a meeting of a group considering its year-end donations. A rep from FISH made a presentation. One question asked: how do you know people coming in for free food are poor? The answer was they don’t. They make no effort to restrict who gets the food.

    The rep acknowledged that it wasn’t unusual to see people drive up in very expensive cars–BMWs, Mercedes–and dressed very nicely. That tempered our enthusiasm for donating to FISH.

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  4. Lisa says:

    My hope is the word will get out about F.I.S.H.

    Service is NOT dead in Sonoma County; my church just did 400 boxes of Christmas gifts to kids in in 3rd world countries; raised $18,500 for the Redwood Empire Food Bank and The Rose/Manna House; we have over 200 people registered to ‘serve’ this Holiday Season. And as of Thursday collected ‎372 pounds( 290 MEALS) for the Food Bank, with more coming in today.

    It is my hope the word will get about this need and you’d be surprised how people will rise to the occaision.

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  5. James Bennett says:

    This is very sad.

    Plenty of money for unwanted crap.

    We have lost the sacred concept that is being of service.

    I met some of these people at a council meeting a couple months ago, when this was an item on the agenda.

    I know they understand what it means to them, you could feel it from across the room.

    I offered to let them use the kitchen at my community center in the interim…
    I’m sure they’d have a regulation against that too though.

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  6. RICHARD says:

    Welfare for the wealthy, free enterprise for the poor ?

    Santa Rosa City gave the train depot in Railroad Square to the chamber of commerce rent free and had it remolded recently. SMART is not allowed to use it.

    The city bought the AT&T building, thus taking it off the tax rolls. The city stands to lose about a million dollars on the resale of the building.

    The city gave Mr Simon’s company a favorable multimillion dollar loan, with a provision to forgive half the loan, to remodel Coddingtown. Mr Simon’s pay for last year was over $ 140 million dollars.

    This is what the business friendly city council members did to us. Business friendly is not necessarily people friendly.

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