Move from park to senior center upsets pantry volunteers

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Community Food Council volunteers at Huntington Station are unhappy about having to move to the John J. Flanagan Center just outside of downtown Huntington, fearing that a quarter of their customers will not be able to walk to the center to the elderly.

But city officials said they alerted council two years ago that a move from their East Fifth Street location to Manor Field Park was imminent, and during that time they had tried unsuccessfully to find other free accommodation for the council pantry at Huntington Station.

“The city has spent a tremendous amount of time trying to find other locations, whether it’s in a municipal facility or a facility outside of the city,” said City Attorney Nick Ciappetta.

Ciappetta says city officials want to apply for state grants to upgrade Manor Field Park and complete the James D. Conte Center, but to be eligible city officials must show the property is not used for something other than a park.

Steven Schwartz, chairman of the council’s board, said the city had been very helpful but officials could do more even if available buildings were limited.

“Having us relocate is just very inconvenient for the people we serve,” he said. “I hope this story gets someone out of the woods to help or come up with another idea.”

The city does not have a contract to provide a facility for the pantry, Ciappetta said. The arrangement is a holdover from the previous administration, he said.

Ciappetta said finding another free space for the pantry was complicated due to the council’s “many requests” including a sink, dedicated parking and, at one point, a request for at least space. 1,200 square feet.

Schwartz said those requests have been made and are still relevant today, as many of the volunteers are seniors.

The council serves about 120 families each week over two days for four hours, Schwartz said.

The Family Service League, which also offers some services in the East Fifth Street building, is also relocated. They move to the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center on New York Avenue in Huntington Station.

There had been discussions to move the council there, but Schwartz and city officials agreed the parking situation there was “dangerous” and inadequate.

Ciappetta points out that other pantries serve Huntington Station, including St. Hugh of Lincoln Catholic Church, crossing the Huntington School District and the non-profit Helping Hand Rescue mission.

Ciappetta said the city “respects and supports” the council’s charitable mission and has donated the free space to the Flanagan Center at 423 Park Ave. so he can continue.

“The Flanagan Center presents an ideal space in that it is centrally located, easily accessible and provides access to staff from the City’s Department of Social Services, which serves the elderly and veterans, two groups that may benefit from the presence of the Food Council, “says Ciappetta.

The council and the Family Service League are both due to vacate the Manor Field Park site by the end of the summer.

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