The Commission on Economic Opportunity’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank provides assistance to community organizations that distribute meals and groceries to needy families, children, and the elderly. It is the primary source of donated food for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other programs.

The Food Bank is run by the nonprofit Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) of Wilkes-Barre. It collects donations of wholesome but unmarketable food and works to reduce hunger, promote proper nutrition, and prevent food waste. It serves Luzerne, Lackawanna, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Counties and distributes more than 5.8 million pounds of food per year to tens of thousands of hungry people in NEPA.

In 2012, with its building at maximum capacity and the demand for its services growing, the CEO secured a restricted grant to construct a larger, more modern, food bank. However, the grant guidelines required it to find a workable site that would allow the start of construction within a very short time frame. It secured a site in Hanover Crossings, a business park near Wilkes-Barre. However, after acquiring the site and securing additional key grant funding for the new building, the site turned out to be unbuildable. The project and the grant funding secured to build it were in serious jeopardy.

Mericle Gives Back

Mr. Mericle donated a 6.35-acre parcel in CenterPoint East, secured new approvals for the exact design of CEO’s building, and completed all of the rough site work, including blasting, for the required foundation work free of charge.

The CEO’s executive director phoned Rob Mericle and asked for his assistance in identifying a suitable replacement parcel that the organization could buy. Mr. Mericle understood the CEO’s plight and the importance of the project to the community and decided to donate land he owned in Hanover Crossings that appeared to be a good fit for the project. Mericle’s team of professional engineers worked hurriedly to secure permits and development approvals from county and township officials. However, late in the approval process, it was determined that the permits needed for road access into the site would not be available in time to meet the grant guidelines. The project was in jeopardy again.

With minimal time remaining, Mr. Mericle donated another parcel, a 6.35-acre, pad-ready site in Mericle’s CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park East, in Jenkins Township. Mericle’s construction team re-designed the site, secured new approvals for the exact design of the CEO’s building, and completed all of the rough site work, including blasting for the required foundation work, free of charge. The CEO constructed a 50,220-square-foot food bank named the Andrew J. McGowan Center for Healthy Living on the site.