Cheney Free Press -

Write to the Point Restricting charitable acts restricts character


August 16, 2012


Staff Reporter

Could you spend $600 each day to feed lunch to hungry children in town?

That's the fee Angela Prattis will face every day she feeds lunch to hungry children in the Chester Township in Pennsylvania. Prattis has been doing this for a number of years, receiving meals from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to help around 60 children in town.

She provides the meals in a gazebo on her property, free of charge. Prattis receives some additional funding from the state's Department of Education, and meals are monitored by the archdiocese, but the town said zoning laws require her to purchase a $1,000 variance in order to fully comply with zoning policies.

Prattis must either pay for the variance or face the aforementioned daily fine of $600.

The town claims the regulations are to protect against something like food poisoning, but the childrens' meals aren't coming from Prattis' kitchen. Her distribution site has even been inspected and certified by the archdiocese. The town, however, suggested that she move her operation into a local school, to work with them instead of handling it herself.

We saw a similar situation last year with two girls trying to run a simple lemonade stand, before seeing it shut down by city officials. The girls hadn't applied for a business license to operate the stand.

Prattis simply tried to help her community, showing some love to children in need. Instead, we're seeing the devaluing of community service, a devastating blow to charity.

Earlier this year, in March, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg enacted a policy that turned away Good Samaritans seeking to donate food to the Department of Homeless Services. The reason? Salt content.

Since the New York City department couldn't analyze the sodium levels in donated food, they weren't able to accept any homemade items from well-known and respected community members with a history of lending a hand.

Like Prattis, those in New York City were told to stand on the sidelines. Like the girls running the lemonade stand, Prattis and New York City couldn't do something simple without first going to the supposed keeper of the keys.

These average citizens are being dissuaded from being charitable by their government officials. Instead of taking care of their fellow man, or learning the proper ways to run a business by seeking success (and encountering failures along the way), we encounter regulations.

If a city has regulations to the point where even a simple lemonade stand can't exist, is it really business-friendly? If a city has regulations that punish random acts of kindness, our charitable spirit is in danger of being reduced to nothing.

Thankfully, in the West Plains, you can still see an occasional lemonade stand. You'll still see donations to food banks and to independent programs like Feed Cheney and Feed Medical Lake. It's the nation's character of giving that defines us, and our area is no exception to that.

A quick visit to any of the programs mentioned will show that West Plains residents have a heart of giving, and care about lessons passed on to future generations.


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