Angela Prattis has spent part of the summer distributing meals to hungry children in Pennsylvania, but now, the township has informed her that if she does not obtain a costly "ordinance," she will be fined $600 each day she distributes food.
The Daily Times has more:
“I’m not stopping,” said Angela Prattis, who has been distributing meals she receives from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to about 60 children from a gazebo on her property this summer. “These kids are hungry. I’m not tearing down the community. I’m keeping the children out of harm’s way.”
Prattis, who has lived in the township for about three years, started distributing meals and drinks to underprivileged children at her church, the Church of the Overcomer in Trainer, several years ago. This year, after giving birth to her second child, she began distributing the meals from the gazebo in her yard.
Township Council Chairman Stanley Kester said the township was notified of the distribution via a telephone call from another resident a few weeks ago. He asked the township solicitor, Stephen Polaha, to investigate the matter, and in a response to council two weeks ago, Polaha returned an opinion stating that, in terms of the township’s zoning laws, the distribution “was not permitted without a variance.”
That variance costs about $1,000, according to NBC10.
“I don’t think the zoning laws apply here,” Prattis protested. “If I was selling food or cooking food, I could see how it would apply. But we shouldn’t have to pay anything, and if the ordinance does exist, it should be waived for someone who is feeding children.”
Here is an NBC10 interview with Prattis and Bill Pisarek, the Chester Township business manager:
Township Council Chairman Stanley Kester commented: “She wants us to bypass or exonerate her from the zoning hearing. She just doesn’t want to pay to do things the right way... We can’t just start exempting everyone from our laws. If you do one, you’ve got to do everybody.”
The program receives funding from the Department of Education, according to NBC10, and is monitored by the archdiocese, but the town is still concerned that there could be a negative outcome, like a case of food poisoning. Because of the zoning and ordinance laws, Prattis is seemingly the one being targeted.
“It’s a township law,” Kester explained. “We are not picking on her because she’s feeding kids. It’s an honorable thing to do. But she can’t do it there. We’ve told her she could apply for a variance. We’ve told her she can go to the school and ask to work with the school. But we’re not taking the blame for something we’re not responsible for.”
Prattis noted that she has been certified by the archdiocese and that the distribution site is subject to inspection. If her statements are any indication, she is not at all convinced that the fines and regulations are justified.
"How is feeding kids a bad thing?" she asked. "I’m doing this from my heart because I love children. And these kids are hungry. Last Friday, I had 20 children walk to my house in the pouring rain for lunch, and at 2 p.m., they came back for a snack. Tell me this program is not needed.”