Ministry Assistance of the Near Northwest Alliance (MANNA) board member and former chair Robert Rivera said the nonprofit’s business model, primarily based on volunteers, is the main reason why MANNA decided to permanently close its resale shop at the White Oak Bayou Village Shopping Center.
MANNA’s food pantry, located at 5706 W. Little York Rd., remains open.
The resale shop opened in June 2019 after the previous location on West 43rd Street was destroyed by an arson in September 2017.
“The volunteers who operate the clothing store are (seniors),” Rivera said. “They are vulnerable and high risk for COVID-19. We can’t in good conscience jeopardize the health of our volunteers during this difficult time.”
The resale shop has been closed since the city’s shutdown in March. Rivera said that now the situation is the same or worse in Houston. The store’s proceeds helped pay the rent and without that income, MANNA could not afford to keep it open.
“It is complicated. We took over the lease from another organization,” Rivera said. “As the pandemic continued, we did not renew the lease. At this point, we have decided not to continue at that location.”
Rivera said eventually MANNA will move additional inventory from the store. A sign on the window of the shop from the landlord, Nankani Management LLC, states that the locks at the location have been changed. A “For Lease” sign is up, too.
What is staying open, and getting all MANNA’s available resources, is the food pantry, which opened nearby in January 2019. A secondary location has been added at St. James Lutheran Church, 1602 W. 43rd St., where Rivera is the director of the Family Life Center.
“We are continuing to provide service to families in need,” Rivera said. “It was a service that needed to stay open.”
While hours fluctuate at the Little York location due to volunteer availability, there are more regular hours at St. James. Rivera said in the last month MANNA has served 1,000 families and given $25,000 in emergency grant assistance.
While families used to be able to shop in-store, now the groceries are pre-bagged as a safety precaution.
The food pantry is maintained by donations – both from the public and from MANNA’s member churches – as well as MANNA reserve funds and support from the United Way of Greater Houston.
“The community would be most welcome to assist us as we meet the emergency needs of families, including food and cash for rental and utility assistance,” Rivera said.
Rivera said when the pandemic abates, MANNA will reorganize the board and look for a new executive director. Former executive director Nia Amuzie left the organization in January. He said MANNA will also search for a new resale shop location.
“I have loved and frequented MANNA since we moved in to the neighborhood,” Candlelight Estates resident Amy McCormick said. “Knowing that my donations were used to help the local community meant a lot to me. I also loved all the volunteers and employees. They were so polite and always willing to have a conversation. I followed them after the fire to their new location instead of going to another major donation site to donate our things.”
Rivera said MANNA exists to serve the community.
“We will do everything in our power to do that,” he said.