The We Care Food Bank closed its doors earlier this month, and the Ashley Chapel Community Center Board of Directors wants to explain why.
The food bank’s lease ran out in October and the chance to renew that lease was not extended to the volunteer organization, according to its director, Paulette Ingram.
The food bank started in the community in a little rent-free house in 2008. It grew rapidly, said Ingram. After being there two years the landlord decided to rent the house and the food bank had to move. Fortunately, not far up the street was a vacancy in the basement of the Ashley Chapel Community Center. It was rented under the leadership of Bishop Theodore “Johnny” Harrington, Chairman of the We Can Food Bank Pantry. Harrington also resides in the same area.
John Harrington, assistant chair to the community center board, said Monday, “Unfortunately in the prior article ‘We Care Food Bank forced to close’ the Ashley Chapel Community Center was depicted as an uncaring and irresponsible site in the community. But that is far from the truth. We rented the space for a food bank, but (Theodore Harrington) was bringing members of his church there for dinners and birthdays, which wasn’t part of the agreement.”
Theodore Harrington admitted that he brought church members to the basement, even though it wasn’t part of the agreement.
“We would have fellowship there after church,” said Theodore Harrington, but the refusal to renew the lease was not about the misuse of the basement. Instead, Theodore Harrington said it is a vendetta against him. He said he formed a committee of concerned citizens because he felt the needs of the community were not being addressed.
“I watched them take down the backboard on the basketball court and they took down the swings,” said Theodore Harrington. “There is no outlet for our young people, who hang out in the streets.”
John Harrington said it is as simple as not following the rules. John Harrington also said Theodore Harrington changed the locks on the doors without asking permission.
“(John Harrington) could have come to me and asked me for a key,” said Theodore Harrington, who also said, “There were too many keys out to those (original) doors. I had a food bank with frozen meats down there. Anybody with a key could have gone there and taken anything they wanted.”
Both men, along with the Ashley Chapel Community Center Board of Directors, signed a new lease agreement — dated Aug. 1, 2011 — before Theodore Harrington read the General Agreement, he said. The agreement contained 10 points which served as rules, to which Theodore Harrington only agreed to three. Other rules in the lease that Theodore Harrington said he did not agree with included, “All trash should be removed on the same day as the food giveaway,” “There will be absolutely no cooking in the basement,” and “There is not to be any personal storage in the basement.”
Tensions grew until both parties went to court. Theodore Harrington owed the board pro-rated rent, according to John Harrington. Theodore Harrington said he began the appeals process, but chose not to continue it.
“(Theodore Harrington) didn’t show up when he appealed the case,” said Clerk of Court Kathy Gainey. “The district court judge dismissed the appeal for ‘failure to appear’ on Oct. 2. He was given the paperwork for the $150 he needed to pay, but there is no receipt. He did pay $125 the day he appealed.”
The $125 was the cost of appealing, and Theodore Harrington said, “I didn’t miss the court date — I decided not to go to court. I appealed the court date but then stopped it.”
John Harrington said the lease was not renewed due to Theodore Harrington’s inability to follow the rules, and the Ashley Chapel Community Center has no plans to rent out the basement in the future.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.