UPDATE (9:30 p.m. Tuesday) - The Port Chester Board of Trustees on Tuesday night gave its approval for Caritas of Port Chester to use the kitchen at one of the village firehouses as the kitchen the group normally uses undergoes renovation.
Port Chester Trustee Luis Marino told fellow trustees that the situation involving the Caritas soup kitchen is unique in Port Chester, and the village and the Port Chester Fire Department can extend a helping hand to a good neighbor through the temporary use of the kitchen at the South End firehouse.
Anthony R. Tirone, vice president of the Caritas Board of Directors, told the trustees during their Tuesday night session that the group needed an answer from the village so it could make necessary arrangements essential for keeping the soup kitchen in operation during renovations at the Don Bosco Center.
Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla noted that by helping Caritas in this situation, the village does not want to set a precedent that it is opening facilities at its buildings and firehouse for use by other organizations. Village Manager Christopher Steers agreed that the proposed use by Caritas was very unique and provides service to a large number of people in the village, and would not necessarily create a precedent.
Caritas of Port Chester, a non-profit group that provides services including a daily soup kitchen in Port Chester, is seeking Port Chester's permission to temporarily use the cooking faclities at a Port Chester firehouse to keep its soup kitchen going.
In a letter to the Village Board of Trustees, Caritas says that it will be without its own kitchen facilities as the Don Bosco Community Center building in Port Chester undergoes a renovation and facility expansion, expected to begin in March. Renovations to the soup kitchen facilities there are due to leave Caritas without a kitchen for as long as six months — starting the first week of April.
Deacon Bill Vacarro, executive director of Caritas, and Anthony R. Tirone, vice president of the group's Board of Directors, have requested use of the kitchen in the South End firehouse. Vaccaro and Tirone, in their letter to the village, report that members of the two fire companies at the firehouse - Mellor Engine and Hose Co. No. 3 and Putnam Engine and Hose Co. No. 2 - have both approved the organization's request, subject to Board of Trustees consent.
"Only the cooking staff (3-5) of Caritas would be working in the firehouse kitchen area Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.," the organization wrote to the Board of Trustees. "The public would never be permitted to enter of visit the firehouse kitchen. Once the meals are prepared they would be transported across the street to our visitors each day in the Lower Hall of The Church of the Holy Rosary."
Caritas says it will provide liability insurance and ensure the firehouse kitchen facilities are left clean and orderly.
Services provided by Caritas at the Don Bosco Center include the daily soup kitchen, a daily and weekly food pantry and clothing distribution to the needy. The soup kitchen provides more than 650 free meals each week, including breakfast and lunch to men, women and children.
Caritas says there are no restrictions or reservations needed, with their organization feeding and and providing clothing to whoever comes to its door at the Don Bosco Center.
The request by Caritas is on tonight's agenda for the Port Chester Board of Trustees, which meets at 7 p.m. at the Village Court on North Main Street.