Town’s Human Resource Center, CAST to receive COVID-19-related grant funding

Southold Town officials will split $150,000 in COVID-19-related grant funding between its Human Resource Center and the nonprofit group Community Action Southold Town.

According to a resolution adopted Tuesday, $120,000 in funding will be set aside for the Human Resource Center and CAST is slated to receive $30,000.

At a work session earlier Tuesday, town government liaison Denis Noncarrow said both organizations have been “working so hard” to respond to the health crisis.

“[CAST] is feeding so many people and helping the needy … [HRC director Karen McLaughlin] has a lot of extra food expenses,” he said.

According to Ms. McLaughlin, half of the grant money will be used for a new generator and new outdoor walk-in freezer to store additional meals. 

“We were ramping up to transition people that came to our dining room to home-delivered meals and also to keep seniors safe at home that normally wouldn’t use that program,” she said. “We wanted to limit their exposure.”

In a typical year, the center provides an average of 28,000 meals. Ms. McLaughlin said they are nearing 31,000 meals already in 2020. “In half a year, we’ve actually done more,” she said, adding that the increase came at the height of the pandemic in March and April.

As they prepared more meals, they’ve outgrown their current freezer space. “In the fall, if there’s an uptick, we want to be ready and prepared,” Ms. McLaughlin said.

She also said the pandemic has staff considering a new model that would allow seniors who are not homebound to pick up their frozen meals directly from the freezer.

The remaining $60,000 will be used for a new van equipped with a wheelchair lift that the center can use to deliver groceries and other essential items as well as transport seniors to their doctors appointments. “I’d like to start getting people back and forth to their doctor,” Ms. McLaughlin said, adding that the van will be more efficient than a minibus currently used.

CAST executive director Cathy Demeroto said Tuesday that she’s grateful for the additional funding to respond to the current health and economic crisis.

“We’re still seeing high numbers,” she said. “Many people are still underemployed and unemployed.”

In February, before the coronavirus outbreak exploded, CAST provided 4,961 meals to local families. That number nearly tripled in March and reached 19,747 at the height of the pandemic in April.

In addition to the need for food and supplies, Ms. Demeroto said the organization has had to hire two additional food pantry assistants and a second client support specialist as well as increase the ours of other staff members as they responded to community needs.

The town will also receive $5,000 in administrative costs, according to the resolution.

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