guest blog by Deborah Goonan
I could hardly believe my eyes and ears when I read this article and watched the videos in the Bradenton Herald article regarding Carlyn Estates Mobile Home Park in Palmetto, Manatee County, Florida. I honestly had to dry the tears from my eyes. You MUST watch these short videos, particularly the video of the mobile home resident who is vehemently against having the local Food Pantry distribute free boxes of food to 28 of her neighbors.
Talk about nasty. She thinks that her fellow HOA members should get help from their families, or call social services and “hand over their checks” to a nursing home. Wow. A total lack of compassion.
Here’s the reality: for many seniors, there are no family members to assist them. These 28 seniors are unable to get to the food pantry, because of illness, disability, or lack of transportation, so the Hope Center Food Pantry has been making weekly distributions where they live. One resident, recently widowed, is quoted in the article, stating that the owner of the mobile home park, Tonia Sonju, is denying her the right to take care of herself, and causing her physical and emotional stress.
What’s the issue?
You see, according to another article in the Miami Herald, the HOA policy, written by Sonju, prohibits “soliciting” of any kind. Residents have received violation notices from the Park owner, that state the following:
“No peddling or soliciting or operation of a commercial enterprise is allowed in the park without prior consent of the management. You continue to operate a commercial food bank in Carlyn Estates in violation of Rule 52 which causes the disruption of the park, causes unsightly and unsanitary conditions, significant trash, along with rats, roaches, and mice, etc.”
Christie Castro, President of the Manatee County Senior Advocacy Council has tried to speak to Sonju on behalf of the senior residents, but Sonju has refused to talk to her. Lenworth Gordon, director of the Hope Center Food Pantry in Palmetto, has spoken to Sonju, but was unable to change her mind regarding HOA policy. They argue that since the food is donated, there is no “solicitation” and no commercial business activity. There is no stockpile of food to attract pests.
Castro believes that these seniors need advocates to prevent them from being bullied in their HOA. The residents tried to attend the last HOA meeting to discuss the issue, but it was cancelled at the last minute. Now the residents are trying to arrange a meeting at one of the local churches. The advocacy group is hoping a local attorney will provide pro bono assistance in resolving this matter.
The local Meals on Wheels has offered to provide delivery of meals to those residents who qualify.
Kudos to Hope Center Food Pantry, Manatee County Senior Advocacy Council, Meals on Wheels PLUS, and both the Bradenton and Maimi Herald news companies for bringing this important issue to the attention of Floridians, and the general public.