In February, the Oxford City Council adopted a resolution that permitted the Tallawanda Oxford Pantry and Social Services (TOPSS) to construct in the Merry Day Park facility, located on Reaghs Way. This new building will be used for collecting, storing, and distributing food provided by TOPSS. It is also planned to be utilized for the operation of other non-profit entities approved by the City of Oxford. This lease holds up for 25 years with 10-year renewable options.
TOPSS has asked if the city council would be able to extend its starting construction date of January 31, 2020, by three years.
"Funding shortfall is what this situation is here," said Ann Fuehrer, associate professor in the Department of Global & Intercultural Studies and the consulting executive director of TOPSS. "We haven't had a full-time executive director yet at TOPPS, but we will have a full-time director as of January 1, 2020."
Mayor Kate Rousmaniere expressed her disappointment on the matter.
"I'm a bit disappointed. That's a three-year extension. What's up with the fundraising for TOPSS? Are you feeling optimistic? Are you looking for state grants or potential donors?"
Fuehrer replied that there was a complex proposal for fundraising and that TOPSS received $75,000 in community block grants, a $200,000 pledge, and small contributions from faith communities and individuals.
Until this happens, TOPSS will be co-locating with the Family Resource Center starting in the spring. This will allow TOPSS to pilot and expand its services building, which helps them prepare for their upcoming construction date, according to the Fuehrer. Their new location will be at 5445 College Corner Pike.
"I think the main goal as a community is to make sure that the people who need the services get continued services and there are no interruptions," said Council Member Edna Southard.
Fuehrer then reassured the board that with the help of the Family Resource Center there will be a speedy move that will cause no interruptions in service as they prepare to move in March from their current location at 400 W. Withrow St., where it is known as the Oxford Choice Pantry, which has been around for 12 years now.
Regarding the development plan for the Merry Day Park building, Fuehrer mentioned that while the plan still remains the same, over time the budget amount for the building will increase. It will be located near the Family Resource Center, and the lease allows the building to be up to 6,000 square feet.
"The new building will cost about $1 million. TOPSS has raised about 20 percent of those funds so far," Fuehrer said in a follow-up interview.
The Oxford City Council believes that with TOPSS's partnership with the Family Resource Center and with Fuehrer to become a TOPSS executive director at the beginning of next year after her retirement as a faculty member for 38 and a half years, the future for this lease is in good hands.