A Pennsylvania woman has received notice that she could be fined up to $600 a day if she does not stop feeding hungry children from her home.
KPLC reports that Angela Prattis has been running a free lunch program in Toby Farms, Chester Township. Prattis feeds up to 60 needy children each afternoon. They get free sandwiches, fruit and milk during the summer months when they cannot eat school lunches.
The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and administered by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which delivers the boxed lunches each day. But Prattis recently received a letter informing her that she could be hit with daily fines up to $600 if she does not stop serving the meals from her home without obtaining a variance, which costs $1,000 just to apply for.
"We're talking about children," Prattis told KPLC. "It's unbelievable. They've never once said anything to me in reference to what to do to be in the right standing with the township."
"From our point of view, she's done everything right," Anne Ayella of the Archdiocese said.
There has been considerable public outrage and an outpouring of support for Prattis and her program. A 'Help Angela Prattis' Facebook group has been formed, area residents have pledged more than $3,000, and the Dilworth Paxson LLP law firm has offered to represent her pro bono, the Philadelphia Inquirerreports.
"It's a gift for us to be able to offer our services to a woman with such integrity," Michael Tierney, a zoning lawyer at the firm, told the Inquirer.
"I can't imagine anyone complaining if they see a lady serving food in her driveway," Tom Morello, a 55-year-old developer who's offered to pay the $1,000 for Prattis' variance application, told the Inquirer. "That sticks in my craw."
Local officials insist they do not want to stop Prattis from carrying out her mission.
"We're not here to go after her, hurt her, to take money from her or to prevent her from feeding kids that need the food," Chester Township Business manager Bill Pisarek told KPLC.
Murray Eckell, acting solicitor, told the Inquirer that there were legal issues to consider.
"Suppose a child gets hurt on her property. Will the family sue the township? What if somebody gets food poisoning?"
"What she is doing is commendable. The township isn't against children getting free food. But if we don't have laws, there's chaos. It's a difficult situation for the township to be in."