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Nonprofits ask the town to help fund critical services and programs

Seven nonprofit organizations are seeking Community Development Block Grant money from Riverhead Town to help their organizations remain in operation. 

Five of the organizations appeared at a public hearing before the Riverhead Town Board last Wednesday and two others sent letters.

The grants come from the federal government and are administered by the county, and then distributed to town governments. The town hears requests from public service groups seeking the funding.

Last Wednesday, the board heard from representatives of Riverhead Community Awareness Program, Butterfly Effect Project, Church of the Harvest food pantry, Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach and Bread and More soup kitchen; and it received letters from Catholic Home Care and The Retreat, which helps victims of domestic abuse.

Riverhead CAP requested $10,000 for 2020 to help support its alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs in the Riverhead School District. The grant will provide about 36 days of counseling and prevention services for K-4 students in the Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, which is the most impoverished school in the Town of Riverhead, according to Cynthia Redmond of CAP.

She said 67% of students at the Roanoke Avenue school qualify for free or reduced price lunch, a poverty indicator; and 83% represent minority groups, with Hispanic students being the fastest growing segment of the community at 69%, up 21% in the past three years.

• The Butterfly Effect Project, a program that seeks to empower young girls, didn’t specify how much it is seeking, but founder Tijuana Fulford said the organization has grown from eight girls to 436.

The funding the town projects “is nothing short of a miracle,” said Ms. Fulford. “We don’t have a staff or a budget, our program is run by people in the community that just want to help.”

• Maureen’s Haven operates an emergency winter shelter program across the East End starting in November, according to Dan O’Shea, its executive director.

That program, based in Riverhead, used to run five nights a week but now runs seven nights a week, six months out of the year, he said. It has capacity for about 30 people, he said.

Last year, they provided shelter to 105 people and in 2018, they helped 225 people.

To date this year, they have already assisted about 170 people, he said, about half of which come from Riverhead Town. There are 21 “host sites,” churches and congregations that will house the homeless over the winter, he said.

• Bread and More operates a “soup kitchen” three nights a week at the First Congregational Church in Riverhead, where it provides hot meals to anyone, “no questions asked,” according to Judy Barth of Bread and More.

“We serve between 8,000 and 10,000 meals a year,” she said. “We rely solely on donations and this grant to provide the service to the community.” The group is all volunteer, she said, and all money goes back into the purchase of food and supplies.

In the past three months, they have seen an increase of 300 meals per month, she said.

“Something is going on, and we don’t know what it is,” she said. “We haven’t seen these numbers since 2007 and 2008.”

• Gwen Mack of Church of the Harvest food pantry on Raynor Avenue said this is the first year they have sought CDBG money for their food pantry.

In 2017, they provided food for 1,131 clients, and so far, through the end of September this year, they have provided food to 2,624 clients, she said.

• The Retreat has provided free services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault for 30 years, the group wrote in a letter to the town.

• Catholic Home Care has been serving frail elderly and disabled people in Riverhead and Southampton towns for more than 20 years, wrote Marianne Bogannam, the group’s foundation director, in a letter to the board.

Caption: The Riverhead Community Awareness Program, which hosts the annual Say No to Drugs March, was one of several groups seeking block grant funds. 

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