11/08/13 5:00pm
11/08/2013 5:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bennett Brokaw (left), co-president of Bread and More, along with fellow volunteers Gerry Hamill (center) and Genny Yeoman, cook dinner at Riverhead Congregational Church in Sept. 2012.

Local charities that help the poor in Riverhead Town say they need help, too, as the number of homeless, hungry and elderly people in need of care continues to mount.

Those groups spoke at a public hearing Wednesday on federal Community Development Block Grants, which are allocated by the town to local charities on an annual basis, often to many of the same groups each year.

The town expects to have about $143,000 of grant money available this year, according to Chris Kempner, the town’s community development director.

Public service programs like the ones requesting help Wednesday can only receive a total of $25,000 and each individual grant must be for at least $5,000, she said.

“Public services include counseling, soup kitchens, senior services providing at least 51 percent of the funding for low to moderate income persons,” she said.

The Town Board will likely decide which programs to fund at its next meeting, Nov. 19. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 29, Ms. Kempner said.

Some of the charities seeking grant money included:

The Riverhead Community Awareness Program

CAP, as its more commonly called, has provided drug and alcohol prevention education to students in the Riverhead School District since 1982.

“Due to recent funding cuts, we have had to reduce staff and subsequently reduce our services in a time of increasing need,” said Shannon Kutner, a licensed clinical social worker with CAP, who works in the Phillips Avenue and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools.

“Roanoke Avenue Elementary School has the highest rate of poverty and poverty risk factors in Riverhead Town,” Ms. Kutner told the Town Board at Wednesday’s public hearing.

Ms. Kutner said that 62 percent of the students in Roanoke are eligible for free or reduced lunch, 68 percent belong to a minority group and 60 percent are economically disadvantaged, according to a report from the New York State Basic Educational Data System.

“In 2011, Roanoke Avenue saw a 10 percent increase in students and administrators report that at least 90 percent of those families were classified as low income,” she said.

The Dominican Sisters Family Health Service

The group provides assistance to frail elderly and disabled people of low to moderate income levels, according to Marianne Bogannam, the agency’s development manager for Suffolk County.

“Last year, we did close to 1,000 visits of seniors and disabled elderly in Riverhead,” Ms. Bogannam told the board.

The program, which Dominican Sisters have done for the past 19 years, employs workers who visit the homes of the elderly to do light housekeeping, change bed linens or go grocery shopping, she said.

“It sustains the seniors in their homes and keeps them from being prematurely placed in institutions,” she said.

The Open Arms Care Center and Project Care

The two programs run through the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, are also seeking a grant for their services, according to Zona Story, the chair of the group.

Open Arms runs a food pantry at the church and Project Care, which is done in conjunction with Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Federation of Organizations, provides free health screenings to home-bound seniors, clients of the food pantry, and seniors who frequent the town’s senior nutrition program, she said.

“This program is a lifeline for helping prevent hunger for many people in the community,” Ms. Story said. “The pantry serves approximately 500 households on a regular basis each year and about 1,200 individuals. We provide enough food for three meals a day for three days to each client.”

Bread and More soup kitchen

The kitchen operates three night a week at the First Congregational Church in Riverhead and has been in operation since the 1990s.

“On any given night, we serve between 80 and 125 meals, all made possible by staff that is solely volunteer,” said Judy Barth, one of the group’s leaders. “We offer an hour of warmth and caring to those whose lives are otherwise in chaos.”

Ms. Barth said Bread and More’s sources of income have dwindled in past years. They no longer receive grant money from the federal government, she said, and no longer receive supplemental money from the Interfaith Nutrition Network, as they had in the past.

“It is through private donations and this community block grant that we are still able to operate,” Ms. Barth said.

Maureen’s Haven

The group provides overnight shelter for the homeless in the winter, and is seeing a growing demand, according to its past chairman, Dwayne Wagner.

The group teams up with local churches on the East End to provide a place for the homeless to sleep. It has done so for the past 11 years.

“Last year, we had 312 individuals participating in our program,” Mr. Wagner told the Town Board.

It provided more than 5,000 beds that were made available over the winter in 32 churches on the East End, he said.

Maureen’s Haven also opened a new office in Riverhead in 2011.

East End Arts Council executive director Pat Snyder also requested block grant money to repair the handicapped ramp at the historic Benjamin House on its property.

tgannon@timesreview.com