PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio - For nearly seven years, the Parma Heights Food Pantry has been helping needy families, but it may soon be forced to close because of a new lease that calls for its monthly rent to double.
The Pearl Road building that houses the food pantry was purchased by a new owner in January, and the new company is requesting rent increase from all tenants so the building can be given needed renovations.
Pantry founder Ann George told NewsChannel5 she understands rent costs go up, but said she was stunned to learn the rent for her small pantry was going up from $500 to $1,000 a month.
George contacted Parma Heights Mayor Mike Byrne, but so far the city has been unable to find another location for the pantry which serves 280 needy families every month.
George said many families are telling her it would be very tough on them if the pantry shutdown.
"One woman said, 'what does this mean?' and I said, 'We're going to have to close the pantry,' and she started crying, she said, 'this is how I'm able to survive,'" explained George. "I'm very fearful, I haven't slept much this last week."
Myra Muser of Parma Heights explained how the food pantry has played a critical role in helping to feed her 6 children, and why the pantry has been an oasis for so many.
"There's people from all walks of life that come here, people on Social Security who's checks don't get them through the month," said Muser. "They have staples here, and they have a farmers market in the summer, it's all locally grown produce."
NewsChannel5 also contacted Parma Heights Mayor Mike Byrne, and he agreed to continue talks with the new building owner, hoping to promote a compromise that would keep the food pantry open.
"I will explain to the new owner the history of this food pantry and make him understand the impact Ann and her volunteers have had on the residents of Parma Heights," said Mayor Byrne.
5 On Your Side will not name the new owner of the building in this case, as talks between both sides continue.
The Parma Heights Food Pantry was given the "Pantry of the Year" award by the Cleveland Food Bank in 2008.
The latest on this developing story can be found here on newsnet5.com and on NewsChannel5 at 5, 6, and 11 p.m.