Woman battling Glendale over front yard food bank

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A Valley woman is fighting to keep her front yard food bank open, but the city of Glendale has said it has to shut her down.

The impromptu food bank Millie Ramirez runs out of her front yard is a neighborhood staple that she claims helps dozens of people and families every day.  So when the city said she had to shut it down a couple weeks ago, she was confused and angry.

"And down below the person writes, 'You cannot have shelves out for display,'" said Millie, reading from one of her two compliance notices written by the city.

For the past seven years Millie has taken food donations from local stores and charities, setting them on her front lawn for a few hours every day with a sign telling people to take what they need.  She said roughly 50 people stop by daily.

"If you could see their faces it would make you emotional too," said Millie, tearing up as she stood in her driveway explaining her passion for feeding people.  "I've been there. I've been down to where I have nothing and there wasn't anyone around to help. And If I can help why shouldn't I?  Why shouldn't anybody help?"

But since the end of September Millie has received two notices from the city Code Compliance Department, saying she has to end her front yard food bank. 

3TV visited the city offices for an explanation and was told that someone complained about Millie's operation.  The city representative didn't elaborate on that complaint, but said the front yard display is indeed considered illegal storage even if Millie's intent is good and she cleans it up each evening.

"They need to come out and see the little kids when their mom grabs a thing of cupcakes that they can take home to them - to see, 'wow, we're going to get a treat tonight,'" explained Millie.

The city representative 3TV spoke with Wednesday evening couldn't say exactly what punishment awaits Millie if she continues doing what she's doing.  Millie said it doesn't matter because she's not stopping.

"I'm at a loss but I can't stop," said Millie before joking: "Will you come visit me in jail?"

The last compliance ticket Millie got from the City said she had to stop her front yard food bank by Oct. 3.  However, by the end of the day no one from code compliance had showed up to enforce that order.