Featured Story

Riverhead Town seeks $200K grant for local groups to help the needy

Riverhead Town is seeking up to $200,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants for 2018, and a number of nonprofit agencies that rely on those funds to help the needy locally are hoping to get a portion of it.

The grants come from the federal government and is administered by Suffolk County.

For 2017, the town requested $150,000, but received only $135,000. The town traditionally funds its home improvement program with a portion of the money — this year the program received $75,000 — and also gives a portion to public service activities and neighborhood improvement programs. The following organizations have requested funding for 2018 and most of them were represented at a public hearing on that subject last Tuesday.

• The Butterfly Effect Project, a nonprofit that helps underserved communities in the area, is requesting $10,000.

“We create a safe environment for young girls so they can explore their options and eliminate obstacles for each person,” said founder Tijuana Fulford, who said her organization helps to empower young girls.

“I feel the Butterfly Effect Project is not only a necessity, in the community, but is an asset,” she said. “The girls who are going to this program today will definitely see an impact in their lives tomorrow.”

Ms. Fulford said the program allows anyone to have a voice and allows anyone to volunteer.

“And it goes to show the children the community that your idol does not have to be a celebrity, she said.

This is the first time The Butterfly Effect Project has requested CDBG funding.

• The Riverhead Community Awareness Program, a drug and alcohol abuse prevention and education effort that has been in Riverhead schools since 1982, is seeking $10,000 in CDBG funding, according to its executive director, Felicia Scocozza.

A $10,000 grant would provide about 39 days of counseling and prevention services for Riverhead students in grades K through 4 and their families at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School. That program will run two days per week for about 20 weeks, she said.

Roanoke Avenue is a Title I school, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which means it has a high poverty rate, according to Ms. Socozza. It’s the most impoverished school in Riverhead Town, she added, with 78 percent of the students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch, she said.

Ms. Scocozza said 62 percent of Roanoke Avenue students are Hispanic, the fastest-growing segment of the community, and 41 percent are new English learners, with most coming from families where their parents now speak English. Many also live in overcrowded housing, she noted.

“This creates a lack of privacy for the students with no suitable area to complete their homework, as well as considerable chaos in the home,” Ms. Scocozza said. “Many students also report that they are not permitted to play outside for fear of deportation.”

Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach requested $6,000 in CDBG funding, the same amount it received last year.

“Maureen’s Haven provides safe, warm, temporary shelter to homeless individuals from November 1 to April 1 by utilizing over 23 houses of worship located throughout the Twin Forks,” said Jennifer LaMaina, a volunteer social worker with the program.

“Last winter, we served 357 individuals over 115 nights,” she said. “Our average number of guests per evening was 46, with a high of 53.”

About half the people helped by Maureen’s Haven are “temporary or first-time homeless,” Ms. LaMaina said, describing those clients as “working poor” who have suffered setbacks like job loss, illness, loss of transportation or divorce.

The other half, she said, are the “chronically homeless,” who face one or more serious issues, including mental illness, addiction and cognitive or developmental disabilities.

• The Open Arms Care Center Emergency Food Pantry, located at First Baptist Church of Riverhead on Northville Turnpike, is requesting $5,000 to help eliminate hunger insecurity in Riverhead and the surrounding area, according to its chairperson, Zona Stroy.

Since 2006, Long Island Cares reports that the number of struggling Long Islanders has grown from 259,000 to 316,000, including 87,000 children, Ms. Stroy said.

“Your decision to approve Community Development Block Grant funding for Open Arms’ pantry makes this board a vital part of the response to the problem in the Riverhead community. We were able to distribute food for approximately 11,000 healthy meals last year, largely made possible through this funding,” Ms. Stroy said.

• Bread and More Soup Kitchen, which is run through the Interfaith Nutrition Network, also is seeking CDBG funding, although they did not specify a number.

The all-volunteer program has existed for 27 years, and operates three nights per week from Riverhead Congregational Church, according to Judy Barth, who has been a program volunteer for 23 years.

“On any given night, we serve an average of 70 to 100 dinners,” she said. “Multiply that by three, and we are serving sometimes 300 dinners per week, 15,000 on average per year.”

In addition to soup, the meals consist of a salad, protein, mainly beef or poultry, a starch and fresh vegetables that this time of year are provided by “generous local growers,” Ms. Barth said.

The program depends entirely on grants such as the CDBG and donations, she said.

“Our guests come from all walks of life,” Ms. Barth said. “We take pride in offering them a safe haven in an otherwise chaotic life. For some, this is the bridge that gets them to tomorrow.”

• The Dominican Sisters Family Service League, which helps seniors live independently, did not have a representative at the hearing, but requested continuation of its funding by letter.

The organization did not specify the amount it is seeking, but received $6,000 this year.

[email protected]

File photo: Maryann Gensler, executive director of Maureen’s Haven homeless outreach program, sorts donated clothing in September. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)