Johnstown church declines $480K state grant for food pantry

JOHNSTOWN – St. John’s Episcopal Church is saying no thanks to $480,000 in state grant money – most of which the city helped secure – for its food pantry project downtown.

The Rev. Laurie Garramone, church rector, and other church officials announced today through a news release that St. John’s is declining the state award it received in December . The church is citing what it says are too many restrictions on its project because of the grant funding.

“I am proud of our desire to serve God by serving our community,” she stated. “This decision is in response to our mission for over 250 years which is to serve our community with faith in Jesus Christ.”

The release said that while Garramone did not have a vote, she led the process, which included decision-making speakers, research, prayer and spiritual discernment.

The church’s Needy Or Alone and Hungry, or NOAH, Free Community Meal Program and food pantry are run out of the cramped church basement. In 2014, the NOAH program served 7,700 hot meals and the Twin Cities Council of Churches Food Pantry distributed 20,160 meals to the public.

For more than a year, the church has been planning a project to relocate the food pantry to the old Fulton County YMCA building.

As part of the state’s economic development awards announced in December by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state awarded $400,000 to the city of Johnstown, as applicant on behalf of the Twin Cities Council of Churches Food Pantry. That grant was from the state Office of Community Renewal’s Community Facilities Program. The church received another $80,000 from the Empire State Development Corp.

Now the city will have to grapple with action taken in May regarding the $400,000 grant.

The Common Council in May approved a $17,000 agreement between the city and Orion Management Co. to administrate a city grant assisting St. John’s Episcopal Church’s food pantry project. The Amsterdam-based firm submitted the sole request for proposal to serve as grant administrator for the church project. Consultant Nicholas Zabawsky of that firm has assisted the city with many previous grants.

More on this story will appear online and in Thursday’s print edition.

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