By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Senior citizens and families living in Ocean City’s affordable-housing communities have enjoyed the convenience of doing their grocery shopping at the Acme supermarket at Eighth Street and West Avenue – a short walk from their homes.
However, a weekend fire that has closed the Acme on Eighth Street means that residents at the Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village housing complexes will now have to shop at the Acme sister store about two miles away on 34th Street.
Knowing that many of those residents don’t have transportation to travel across town, the Ocean City Housing Authority is planning to arrange free rides to take them to the Acme store on 34th Street.
“We will step up and fill that need,” said City Council President Bob Barr, who also serves as chairman of the housing authority’s board.
Barr noted that some of the seniors who live at Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village use walkers and wheelchairs for their mobility and need extra help in getting to the grocery store.
“Many of these people use walkers and wheelchairs. Now, we have to arrange transportation so they can get fed and get their groceries,” he said.
During the housing authority’s monthly board meeting Tuesday, Barr announced that the agency will look to team up with the city and Cape May County to provide free transportation to the 34th Street Acme as long as the Acme on Eighth Street remains closed. He also said that he hopes Acme will help out as well.
Barr noted that the county already provides public transportation in Ocean City through the Fare-Free shuttle service. It is on-demand service that can be arranged by using the Fare-Free app or by calling (609) 889-3700.
Fare-Free provides rides to seniors, the disabled, veterans and low-income residents who need to get to appointments, shopping and other places. Barr is urging residents of Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village to use the Fare-Free shuttle service for rides to the Acme on 34th Street.
Barr said he would also like the city to provide free jitney service to the 34th Street Acme from Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village. He explained that details still need to be work out with the city.
The Ocean City Housing Authority oversees both Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village. Bayview Manor is located at Sixth Street and West Avenue, while Pecks Beach Village is on Fourth Street.
Residents of both communities had only a short walk to the Acme on Eighth Street for their grocery shopping before the store was shut down after Sunday’s fire.
Police announced Tuesday that a 12-year-old Ocean City boy has been charged with arson for allegedly starting the fire. His name is not being released because of his age. He has been released to the custody of his parents pending an appearance in juvenile court.
“I hope that individual and his parents realize what a nightmare this is causing for all,” Barr said of having the Acme shut down just as Thanksgiving is approaching.
An Acme spokeswoman says the Eighth Street store is closed indefinitely. Acme is urging Ocean City residents who normally shop at Eighth Street to use the 34th Street location for the time being.
In other business at the housing authority meeting, the board announced that residents of Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village will each be given $25 holiday gift cards.
Normally, the authority throws a holiday party for the residents, but has decided not to this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is handing out the $25 gift cards to residents instead.
An additional $10 will be added to the gift cards for each family member living with the Bayview Manor and Pecks Beach Village residents.
“It touches everybody,” housing authority board member Scott Halliday said of the gift cards.
Barr told the board members that the authority also hopes to work with the Toys For Tots and Waves of Caring charity organizations to provide holiday gifts to the 51 children who live at the agency’s housing communities. Details have not been finalized yet.
“We will ensure that our kids have at least something for the holidays,” Barr said.