Community rallies to help burned food bank


by Natalie Brand

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 9:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 4 at 10:00 PM

MESA, Ariz. -- A suspicious fire threatened to shut down services at a Valley Food Bank, but local restaurants have stepped up to the plate to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Paz de Cristo Community Center’s kitchen remains damaged and out of commission more than a week after a blaze at the facility. 

Employees say they arrived early last Wednesday to find a pile of blankets on fire. Flames spread to a nearby wall and into the kitchen. Mesa firefighters say the cause still remains under investigation, but arson hasn’t been ruled out.

Despite the blow, Paz de Cristo continues to serve hot meals to a couple hundred people a night.

“We’ve never missed an evening meal, and we weren’t about to miss it now with this fire,” said Arlen Westling, the Director of Paz de Cristo.

Westling says several local restaurants, including RigaTony’s, have come to the rescue to make sure no one goes hungry.

“Serving food is what we do, so we will be here to help!” said Chris Stage of RigaTony’s, who served up meals Thursday night.

“It’s really become not a story about the fire, but about the people reaching out,” said Westling.

Ninety percent of the center’s services are food related.  He expects his kitchen to remain off limits for another couple of weeks.

However, Paz de Cristo isn’t worried thanks to the generosity of the community.

“I am more positive than ever seeing all the support coming from the community,” said Westling.

For more information on Paz de Cristo, visit or call (480) 464-2370