San Jose food pantry raises funds to pay for pricey city permit
A Lighthouse Ministries food pantry volunteer and Pastor Ralph Olmos unload a truck in January 2022. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

After facing closure for having to pay San Jose up to $15,500 for a special use permit, a local food pantry has raised enough funding overnight to remain open.

The Lighthouse Ministries Food Pantry, which serves families, seniors, disabled and unhoused people, was told by the city it would have to raise funds for a permit or cease operations on Feb. 14. City spokesperson Cheryl Wessling said the cost of the special use permit is necessary for environmental and planning review, public notification and outreach and a public hearing, all which require staff. Complaints from neighbors about driveways being blocked and other parking issues related to the food pantry can be addressed in the permitting process.

If the food pantry doesn’t get the permit by Oct. 24, the city could charge $2,500 a day until the permit is paid for. If the permit is not paid for by that deadline, the city could also charge a reinspection fee of $231. 

A day after San José Spotlight wrote about the potential closure, the GoFundMe campaign to save the food pantry exploded, with one anonymous contributor donating $10,000. The campaign had raised $16,662 as of Tuesday night.

A longtime San José Spotlight reader reached out to “Community” actress Yvette Nicole Brown on Twitter, asking her to retweet the article to raise support and funds for the food pantry to her nearly 500,000 followers. Brown retweeted the article, helping to bring more attention to the issue.

 

The food distribution center, located at E. Julian and 17th streets in San Jose, feeds more than 1,000 people a day six days a week, providing fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, eggs and dairy to those in need.

Pastor Ralph Olmos said he couldn’t believe the outpouring of support Lighthouse received. Now the food pantry that so many rely on can keep its doors open, he said.

“It’s amazing,” he told San José Spotlight on Tuesday afternoon. “The people are speaking.”

Olmos said the Lighthouse volunteers expressed excitement throughout the day as the GoFundMe total kept rising.

“I want to say thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to show support for Lighthouse,” he said. “I feel a lot of gratitude in my heart that the people are embracing us.”

Olmos said he will use the funding to pay for the permit and improve the look and feel of the farmer’s market-style food pantry.

Lighthouse Distribution Center manager Tony Covarrubias said Tuesday it’s a blessing that people are willing to step up to help keep the food pantry running. He said they’re giving food back to the people who thought they’d have to go without it.

“From the bottom of my heart, I’m really grateful,” Covarrubias told San José Spotlight. “There are still people out there who care, who have a good heart to help others who are less fortunate.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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