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Local charities make annual pitch to Town Board for block grants


Several service agencies that work with people who are homeless, poor, mentally ill or suffer from addiction issues have asked the Riverhead Town Board for federal Community Development Block Grant money.

The groups on Tuesday painted a bleak picture of life for some on the East End and specifically in Riverhead and said that the grant money the Town Board has given them in the past has helped them continue their work.

Judy Barth of Bread and More Inn, which runs an all-volunteer soup kitchen three nights a week at First Congregational Church, said for many of the people they serve, “that may be the only meal they get that day.”

Felicia Scocozza of Riverhead Community Awareness Program, which provides drug abuse resistance education in the schools, said that 87 percent of the students in the Roanoke Avenue Elementary School qualify for free and reduced lunch, which is a federal poverty indicator. That number is more than double what it was in 2010, she said.

Jennifer LaMaina of Maureen’s Haven, which provides shelter to homeless people from Nov. 1 to April 1 in more than 23 houses of worship on the East End, said the organization served 358 people over 113 nights last winter. Half of them are “chronically homeless” due to mental illness, addiction or developmental disabilities, she said.

Zona Stroy of Open Arms Care Center Emergency Food Pantry at First Baptist Church of Riverhead said they serve about 1,500 people each year.

“For our clients, an emergency food pantry is often the bridge preventing the insecurity of not knowing how to feed themselves, their children and aging members of their households,” she said. “For the past year, this funding has allowed Open Arms to sustain 50 to 75 households each month with enough food for every person in the household for three meals a day for three days.”

Jacqueline Tapley of Dominican Sisters Family Service League said they help senior citizens live independently in their homes by helping with light housekeeping, shopping, laundry and other things the homeowners can no longer do on their own.

“If they didn’t have the support, they would probably have to move into an assisted living or nursing home,” she said.

The town also received a request for funding from the Riverhead Garden Club, which is proposing to refurbish the knot/boxwood garden on the East End Arts property on East Main Street in time for the town’s 225th birthday celebration in June 2017.

The Community Development Block Grant money is distributed to towns by the county, and in 2015, Riverhead’s total was cut from $144,000 to $104,000, according to town community development director Chris Kempner. She anticipates receiving $135,000 this year.

Public service projects such as those applying for funding Tuesday can receive no more than $20,000 per year nor less than $5,000, she said.

Photo caption: Maureen’s Haven executive director, Maryann Gensler, at the nonprofit’s headquarters in Riverhead. (Credit: Paul Squire)

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