Manna Meeting with Concerned Residents 'Clarified' Misconceptions

Manna on Main Street board members and staff recently met with residents of Highland Avenue, Forest Avenue and East Main Street who are concerned about the Lansdale Collaborative Project and who had questions about Manna's mission

The residents living along Highland Avenue, Forest Avenue and East Main Street or in groups to Lansdale Borough Council and committee meetings, and even town hall sessions,

, Advanced Living Communities, and an expanded under one roof on the former Lans-Bowl property.

Of all the things residents of these streets have been vocal about, the major one is their

In an effort to work with neighbors, Manna on Main Street board members and staff met with residents last week to have an informal discussion over Manna’s services, its mission and what neighbors can expect with the move.

Karen Kispert, interim executive director of Manna on Main Street, said she was really glad to meet with the neighbors.

“We had an honest conversation with the ones who were there. We appreciated a lot of their ideas. They had questions about Manna’s services and the people we work with and we were able to answer those questions,” Kispert said. “This was the first of what we expect to be several conversations of neighbors over the next couple years.”

Kispert expects to meet with more neighbors either in their neighborhood or at the North Penn YMCA so they can reach more people.

“They wanted a better understanding of the people who come to Manna,” Kispert said. “There was a misconception that a lot that come are not local residents, whereas most of them are local.”

Kispert said another main concern was Manna serves a lot of homeless that wander the streets between meals.

“Most who come are not homeless, but they can be housed in rooms,” Kispert said. “We were also able to explain that there are children at Manna everyday, either eating or they are there at the pantry or they are volunteers.”

The meeting also gave the neighbors an opportunity to tour Manna’s new facility on West Main Street.

“They were welcoming and liked what they saw,” Kispert said.

Kispert said the next step is to take the concerns expressed at the meeting and share them with the other collaborative partners. There were questions, she said, about design of the project, traffic issues and parking issues.

“One of the concerns was ‘Why do this project?’ We were able to talk about the ways in which we’ll be able to increase services to seniors, to children who are at the YMCA,” she said.

She said there must be a lot of meetings to figure out how the four partners can use their resources to help one another and the community.

“There wasn’t anything different from what was brought up at the public meetings,” Kispert said. “They brought their concerns directly to us, and we appreciated that.”

The misconceptions and assumptions do not create a fallout with residents of any sort, Kispert said.

“We wanted them to come and see the reality. We had talked about having an open house for neighbors months ago and we didn’t have a date in mind,” she said.

Kispert thought the misconceptions were based on what happens at other soup kitchens and food pantries.

“(The meeting) was a clarification,” Kispert said. “That’s a good way to express the spirit of the meeting and the discussion.”

Kispert said most of the community perceives Manna as a nonprofit that has done very good over the years with its programs that assist the Borough of Lansdale.

“The misconceptions were a huge surprise to us,” she said. “It tells us that maybe we should not assume anything. You can never explain your mission enough.”

She said the meeting was a lesson that Manna has taken to heart.

All issues, she said, must be ironed out before the project breaks ground.

“We are very optimistic that will happen,” she said.

Traffic issues and the like are up to Lansdale Borough and PennDOT. Manna can focus on its processes and what neighbors can expect from them.

“I think all those things will be ironed out in advance — they need to be,” she said. “The neighbors were there first. Those are their homes and they are there all the time. We’re an organization that comes in, and we understand they are concerned and we respect that.”

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