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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) – Officials are forcing a decades-old charity in Atlantic City to close its doors. Sister Jean’s Kitchen is facing a deadline to find a new home, so they can continue to provide for those in need.
Except maybe around the edge, you’d be hard pressed to find empty space on a plate served at Sister Jean’s Kitchen.
“They gave you a plate,” said Deacon Doug Adams. “So when you ate, you left Sister Jean’s full.”
In the early 1980s, former casino chef Jean Webster embarked on a mission to feed the hungry – starting in her own kitchen.
In the mid-90s, with the help from Rev. John Scotland, Sister Jean opened a shop at the Victory First Presbyterian Church on Pacific Avenue.
It’s a location just feet from a luxury casino, but where homelessness and food insecurity are rampant.
In 2011, Sister Jean passed away but her namesake kitchen has continued, feeding up to 300 people daily, and by their estimate, more than 1 million meals overall.
But, Wednesday could be the last supper.
“They said it’s going to be the last day tomorrow,” said one man.
After months of warning that the roof, stone work and other parts of the church needed extensive repairs, the city issued an order to vacate on Monday.
Scotland can’t even wrap his head around the idea that Wednesday could be the last day.
“No, not yet, not yet, just heart sick,” said Scotland. “Can’t imagine.”
Rather than repair a century and a half old building, friends of Jean Webster decided several years ago to buy the former Saint Monica Parish two blocks away.
With the help of former Mayor Don Guardian, they got approval for a $1 million grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
However, Scotland says when Mayor Frank Gilliam took office, all cooperation with city administration ceased and the grant expired.
“They mayor is seen as the person that makes that decision so we need Mayor Gilliam to change his mind, find it in his heart to let us move into Saint Monica’s and feed people there,” said Scotland.
While Sister Jean’s keeps trying to cut through alleged political red tape, they’re hoping someone will give them a temporary space to keep Sister Jean’s life work alive.
“She would say, ‘God told me to feed the people, God will provide a way,’” said Scotland.
Several attempts to get comment from the mayor’s office were unsuccessful.
The state agency in control of Atlantic City now says they are aware of the situation.