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Town Board approves CDBG funding, although one group left out

The Town Board on Tuesday voted to approve Community Development Block Grant funds for seven of the eight nonprofit organizations that had requested such funds recently.
The one organization that was left out — the Riverhead food pantry Church of the Harvest on Raynor Avenue — was not happy, although town officials said Tuesday that they will look to help them in other ways.
Community Development director Dawn Thomas told the board at a work session last Wednesday that she had submitted a draft resolution to the Board on Nov. 20, which recognized seven community groups and gave each of them $8,000. She said that resolution had to be sent to the county prior to that, and that the boards was only being asked to ratify it.
However, Ms. Thomas said that plan was not reflected in the Dec. 3 resolution and it was modified without her knowledge to include the Church of the Harvest. Since an additional organization was added, it reduced funding to each group by $1,000. Ms. Thomas asked that the group not be included in the grant application.
Ms. Kent said she doesn’t believe Church of the Harvest should be removed from the resolution and receive no funding.
“I thought they were a deserving group. I like to see all parts of our community represented,” she said. “It would be unfortunate to see this one group excluded.”
But Ms. Thomas said it’s the second food pantry on the list. She added that the town cannot request additional funding, and that CDBG guidelines prevent the applicant from requesting more than 15% for public service groups of the total amount requested. If eight groups are included, funding will be above 15%.
She said Suffolk County, which administrates the grant money, would likely reject a request to fund to food pantries.
“I understand you want to fund everybody, but we need to make sure we’re strategically poised to get the most funding for the most groups possible,” she said.
Gwen Mack, who has been running the Church of the Harvest food pantry, said they provided food for 1,131 clients in 2017, and that number has since jumped to 2,624 through the end of September of this year. The church also delivered food to up to 15 families, and has opened at night for families that can get there during the day.
“I’m very passionate about what I do, and I’m asking you to please reconsider our grant,” she said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.
Despite Ms. Mack’s plea, the Town Board voted 4-1 for the resolution that didn’t include Church of the Harvest. Ms. Kent cast the sole no vote.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she would write a check to Church of the Harvest.
The final resolution included Bread and More Soup Kitchen, Open Arms Soup Kitchen, Riverhead Community Awareness Program Dominican Sisters, Maureen’s Haven, Butterfly Effect Project and The Retreat.
Photo caption: Dawn Thomas speaks at last Wednesday’s work session. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
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