Hunger, development discussed by Bethany

BETHANY — Bethany Council on Wednesday heard from separate groups working to bring development to the town and feed the hungry.

Kimberly Lawless told council she and others in a grassroots citizens’ group are exploring ways to provide food for residents who are hungry. Lawless said she’s been told residents needing food feel uncomfortable visiting a food pantry at Bethany Memorial Church on Main Street.

Councilwoman Helen Moren said turnout there is so low, food donated to it has been passed on to the Brooke County Salvation Army and Holy Family Catholic Mission.

Councilman Lindsey Tredway said no one would look down on people coming to the pantry, but Lawless said the problem is those who are hungry often are unjustifiably embarrassed.

“It’s a problem of perception,” she said, adding being a resident of a small town, where many know them, contributes to their apprehension.

Lawless suggested a box in a public place where food could be left and picked up, not unlike the free lending library found near Chambers Store.

Councilwoman Sydma Hatzopoulos said such food pantries are part of a national grassroots trend, with drop-off boxes stocked with food by various civic and neighborhood groups.

Mark Panepinto, the town’s legal counsel, said if the town sponsor’s the box, it could be held liable if someone became sick from spoiled food from it, but he said there are other options for the grassroots group, such as leasing space for the box from the town for $1 a year.

Panepinto said he’s also heard of municipalities establishing a fund for temporary assistance to the hungry.

Councilman Ed Dully suggested the church might maintain such a food pantry outside its building.

Lawless, who said the idea is in the developmental stage, was encouraged by Mayor Patrick Sutherland to return to council with a written proposal when ready.

Sutherland noted, through its website, the town helps to publicize the church’s food pantry. Appointments to visit the pantry may be made by calling (304) 829-7138.

Council also heard from Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, who introduced John Lipinski, vice president of operations for Bethany College.

Lipinski said college officials are interested in working with the town to revitalize Main Street and other areas of the town. Recently college officials approached council seeking input for a grant it may seek for that purpose.

Lipinski said he would like to see more businesses, such as a small store or pizza shop, open on the street.

Ford said the BDC has worked to rehabilitate or raze abandoned homes in other communities and is exploring with the college the possibility of creating moderately priced, quality housing in the town.

He said such housing would appeal not only to new faculty at the college but also staff with international companies coming to the region, such as Pietro Fiorentini, who he said are accustomed to living in small, suburban areas.

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