The Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) is a nonprofit organization located in Wilkes-Barre. CEO has more than 200 employees and operates more than 20 programs that help the area’s low-income and vulnerable populations.
CEO’s Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank (“Food Bank”) is a regional food bank that provides assistance to community organizations that distribute to needy families. The Food Bank collects donations of wholesome, but unmarketable food and works to reduce hunger, promote proper nutrition, and prevent food waste. The Food Bank is the primary source of donated food for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other programs. It serves Luzerne, Lackawanna, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties and distributes more than 4.8 million pounds of food per year to more than 160 agencies.
In 2012, with its building at maximum capacity and the demand for its services growing, CEO secured a restricted grant to construct a larger, more modern food bank. However, the grant guidelines required CEO to find a workable site that would allow the start of construction within a very short time frame. CEO secured a site in the Hanover Crossings Business Park. 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.
CEO’s Executive Director phoned Robert Mericle and asked for his assistance in identifying a suitable replacement parcel that the organization could buy. Mr. Mericle understood CEO’s plight and the importance of the project to the community and decided to donate land he owned in the Hanover Crossings business park near Wilkes-Barre 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 found another parcel. He agreed to donate a 6.35 acre, fully-prepared, pad-ready parcel in Mericle’s CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park East development in Jenkins Township. He donated the site with full development approvals already in place. Mericle’s construction team re-designed the site, 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.
CEO constructed a 50,220 square foot Food Bank named the Andrew J. McGowan Center for Healthy Living (the “Center”) on the site. The Center operates as a regional food bank for the warehousing and distribution of food and other food-related supplies to food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, group homes for the disabled, day care centers, children’s camps, and senior citizens programs located throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as uses ancillary to the warehousing and distribution of such food.
More food donations are always greatly appreciated.
If you think you can help, please contact Manager of Community Affairs, Emily Courtois.