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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.

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01/19/13 11:00am
01/19/2013 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Charlene Chesire (left) co-chairwoman of the ‘Charitable Giving Committee’ with partners in the law firm Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin, and Quartararo LLP of Riverhead, SCNB president Howard Bluver and representatives of the 5 food pantries on the North Fork and South Fork before the luncheon at the firm Wednesday afternoon.

A local lawfirm’s December fundraiser at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead raised $10,000 for five local food pantries.

Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin and Quartararo LLP partnered with Suffolk County National Bank and raised money for Human Resources of the Hamptons (Southampton), Community Action Southold Town (CAST), Long Island Council of Churches Riverhead Food Pantry, Open Arms Care Center Food Pantry (Riverhead), and Springs Food Pantry (East Hampton).

The firm hosted a luncheon Wednesday at the firm, attended by Howard Bluver and other members of the bank, partners of the firm,  and representatives of each charity and members of the firm’s charitable giving committee.

“After Hurricane Sandy I was worried that it would be difficult to raise funds since so many people were seeking donations,” Ms. Cheshire said. “But, as you can see, we are proud to report that we had generous sponsors and with 121 donated items in our Chinese Auction, it was a successful fundraiser.”

“It was really nice that the law firm recognized the need and decided to do something about it,” said Zona Stroy, who runs the Open Arms food pantry at the First Baptist Church in Riverhead. ” The donation came at a really good time because we, like the other food pantries, are stocking our shelves for the winter months to help the many people who are unemployed and still suffering from Hurricane Sandy.”

Carolyn Gumbs, office manager for Long Island Council of Churches in Riverhead said the money “is going to help us buy food. Our shelves are bare. We need canned meat, vegetables, pasta and tomato sauce, cereals and peanut butter and jelly.

“This is going to help us tremendously to put these items on our shelves.”

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10/18/12 1:00pm
10/18/2012 1:00 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 one night last month.

Three nights a week, at 5:30 p.m., Bread and More opens its doors for an hour to serve hot dinners to anyone who needs them. By 4:30 p.m. on those nights, people start lining up outside First Congregational Church of Riverhead, where the meals are served.

“We feed the hungry, no questions asked,” said Bennett Brokaw, one of three co-presidents at Bread and More, which is affiliated with the Interfaith Nutrition Network. “We don’t care who, what or where they come from. As long as they’re orderly, they get a hot meal.”

Bread and More serves on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the downtown Riverhead church. It started in 1990, when it served meals just once a week.

“We’ve never had a fundraiser in 22 years,” Mr. Brokaw said. “Now, what’s happening is that there are two dynamics going on. The amount of guests we serve is up about 50 to 60 percent in the last two years and our donations and funding are down by almost the same percent, 50 percent.”

And as a result, Bread and More will be having its first-ever fundraiser this Saturday.

“Money is tight, and we’re finding ourselves in trying times,” Mr. Brokaw said.

EDITORIAL: Trying times for many — especially the hungry

The Harvest Fundraiser Dinner, as its being called, will be held at First Congregational Church on Saturday, Oct. 20, where a three-course pork roast dinner will be served in two seatings, one at 5 p.m. and another at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30 per person and can be purchased at Barth’s Pharmacy, 32 East Main St. in Riverhead, or Cecily’s Love Lane Gallery in Mattituck. People also can also call Phyllis Kenny at 516-297-7810 for tickets. Tables can be reserved for parties of eight or more.

The fundraiser will be held in the same place as the “soup kitchen,” as it’s called, although it serves more than soup, and the menu will be similar to the menu served by Bread and More three nights a week.

“You’ll definitely get the feel of it,” Mr. Brokaw said, though the fundraiser doesn’t have any specific theme.

A typical dinner at Bread and More might be something like homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables, he said. All the food is fresh cooked and made from scratch.

“When we started 22 years ago, we basically did 25 to 30 meals a week,” said Mr. Brokaw. “Now, we are serving 15,000 meals per year. All served by local volunteers.”

Much of the food is donated. King Kullen donates bakery goods and produce, Beach Bakery in Westhampton donates bread, dinner rolls and desserts and local farms also donate produce, Mr. Brokaw said. The meat is purchased fresh, usually by the chef on duty that night, he said.

The group uses about 40 volunteers over the three nights, he said. It’s other co-presidents are Judy Barth and Deedee Newcomb.

“Some of the people we serve are homeless, but some of them are just people who can’t make ends meet,” Mr. Brokaw said. “We have people from all walks of life here. You’d be surprised. We never thought that we would be having hard times, but I guess it affects everyone, including people who donate money.”

Mr. Brokaw said they’ve been monitoring the numbers for the past 18 months and the pattern was “expenses going up and donations and funding going down.”

That’s when they decided to have the fundraiser.

Volunteers usually arrive about two and half hours before the church doors open and the last of the work is done by about 6:45 p.m., said longtime volunteer Artie Johnson.

Like those in need, the volunteers, some of whom have been doing it for more than 12 years, also come from all walks of life.

Bob Adamo said his neighbors at Saddle Lakes got him involved.

“I think it’s good for the people who come here for sustenance, and I know it’s good for the people who work here,” Mr. Adamo said. “It’s nice to feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.”

Genny Yeomans said she came here from West Hemsptead and “always wanted to work in a soup kitchen.” She’s now been doing it 12 years.

“To help people is gratifying,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing to give back.”

Bronna Johnson, who’s been volunteering at Bread and More since 2000, said there have been times when people who served at the soup kitchen as a community service condition from the courts liked it so much they ended up volunteering after their service was done.

“We’ve had that happen a few times,” she said.

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10/18/12 12:59pm

Volunteers and staff at dozens of worthy charities and other nonprofit groups perform good works here and across the region daily. And they depend on us — and in some cases the government — to keep going.

Every weekend, it seems, there’s a festival or dinner or other such event to help support these groups, worthy causes such as keeping the arts alive, caring for homeless animals or helping an individual felled by a terrible illness or accident.

There’s no true hierarchy of importance for these causes, which all deserve and demand our attention, but it’s hard to think of a more worthy cause than feeding those among us going hungry.

That’s why it was so startling to learn this week that Bread and More, a soup kitchen operating three days a week out of Riverhead’s First Congregational Church, has not once held a fundraising event to help support its mission.

Bread and More has operated for years solely on the generosity of a few donors and a few local eateries.

Now, after two decades, they’re asking for help from the general public.

Why now?

“There are two dynamics going on,” Bread and More co-president Bennett Brokaw explained to the News-Review. “The amount of guests we serve is up about 50 to 60 percent in the last two years and our donations and funding are down by almost the same percent, 50 percent.

“Money is tight,” he added. “And we’re finding ourselves in trying times.”

What’s that old saying? Give until it hurts. The folks at Bread and More already have. They’re hurting, and while no one should be told how to spend his or her money, we can ask that we all keep Riverhead’s hungry in mind as we head into the holidays.

Bread and More’s first-ever fundraising event, The Harvest Fundraiser Dinner, will be held at the East Main Street church this Saturday, Oct. 20. A three-course pork roast dinner will be served in two seatings, one at 5 p.m. and another at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30 per person and can be purchased at Barth’s Pharmacy, 32 East Main St. in Riverhead, or Cecily’s Love Lane Gallery in Mattituck. People also can also call Phyllis Kenny at 516-297-7810 for tickets. Tables can be reserved for parties of eight or more.