Aid offers pour in for Delco woman with feeding program

Posted: August 16, 2012

Outraged area residents have been offering money, praise, and advice to the Delaware County woman whose efforts to voluntarily feed children in her neighborhood have collided with zoning laws.

People pledged more than $3,000 to Angela Prattis of Chester Township on Wednesday, which more than covers the $1,000 she must pay for a zoning hearing to continue distributing food from her driveway next year. She's being permitted to distribute food this summer until Aug. 24.

A Facebook group of 89 people materialized overnight to "help Angela Prattis ... serve the children." And a Center City law firm offered to represent Prattis free.

"It's a gift for us to be able to offer our services to a woman with such integrity," said Michael Tierney, a zoning lawyer with Dilworth Paxson L.L.P. "It's my hope we can work with the township and resolve this so she can feed the children next summer."

Tom Morello, 55, a developer who read about Prattis in The Inquirer, said he would give Prattis the $1,000 she will need to pay for the zoning hearing.

"I can't imagine anybody complaining if they see a lady serving food on her driveway," said Morello, who owns Sea Breeze Development, which builds homes in Ocean City, N.J. "That sticks in my craw."

Another person, who requested anonymity, offered Prattis $1,000, while dozens of others said they would give whatever amount was needed.

"How infuriating that a bureaucracy is thwarting a wonderful endeavor," said Kathy Schilling, 63, a retired teacher living in West Chester.

"Why would they go after a woman like that?" asked Richard Golden, 63, a Jeffersonville building-maintenance engineer. "I couldn't believe what I was reading."

Overwhelmed by the support, Prattis, a married mother of three and a trained volunteer with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Nutritional Development Services, which provides the food she gives out, said she's "grateful for offers of help," adding that she's not accepting money yet, hoping the township will waive the zoning fee.

If people still want to give, she said, she may ask them if she could divert the funds to two college scholarships she's setting up for neighborhood children.

Acknowledging that the township has endured a barrage of bad publicity, acting solicitor Murray Eckell said the township must adhere to zoning laws that prohibit food distribution in a residential area.

"Suppose a child gets hurt on her property," Eckell said. "Will the family sue the township? What if somebody gets food poisoning?

"What she [Prattis] is doing is commendable. The township isn't against children getting free food.

"But if we don't have laws, there's chaos. It's a difficult situation for the township to be in."


Contact Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or alubrano@phillynews.com.

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