Today’s news:

Boro community groups worried over beep funding cuts

Borough President Helen Marshall pleaded at the city Department for the Aging commissioner’s annual public hearing to preserve the many programs she funds through discretionary money provided by the city. The borough presidents receive money they distribute to neighborhood−based community groups, which serve the needy.

The city recently decided to stop funding these DFTA contracts as of July 1 because it wants to “reorganize” the DFTA.

Marshall, a former teacher, had been funding scores of groups. She is concerned that many seniors will fall through the cracks unless she can fund local Queens groups that know their seniors, are trusted by them and provide services at a fraction of the cost of centralized organizations.

In its attempt to economize, the DFTA had proposed that hot Meals on Wheels should be replaced by frozen meals provided once a week. Several groups testified that the driver who delivers the hot meals knows the seniors and is a daily health check.

Some were concerned that new groups might try to discontinue diabetic or kosher meals, which some need. Some drivers are seniors themselves who might lose the added income the job pays. The DFTA now says it will provide hot, daily meals if requested.

City Councilwoman Helen Sears (D−Jackson Heights) testified that seniors should be involved in the planning of changes to their programs and receive services easier, since many seniors take care of their grandchildren. She also said the city should not cut transportation for the frail and that seniors need more green spaces to be healthy.

A representative of Councilman James Sanders (D−Laurelton) said that a number of seniors are fearful their local center might be closed as a way to economize.

Robert Friedman of the Central YM & YWHA told of the theft of cultural and educational programs which serve a large group of diverse people who cannot travel to large, centralized organizations away from their community.

Marcela Dotan, 80, told of becoming a guardian of a child next door whose father could not raise her after her mother passed away. Social worker Laura Stanim of the Family Center Agency helps her help this girl, now 13 and attending Hunter College High School.

They were fearful of any attempt by the DFTA to cut funding for the FCA, which helps ethnically diverse grandparent caregivers, about 82,000 such caregivers in the city.

The Kew Gardens Senior Center is hurting due to proposed cuts to Marshall’s discretionary funds. JAPAC’s Adele Vender said that many seniors are living longer and need senior centers and Meals on Wheels. Samuel Goldstein, director of Self Help, a home care agency, provides classes for seniors and helps them individually.

Cynthia Zalisky, executive director of the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council, said it is the lead agency for 140 faith−based organizations and provides entitlement assistance, landlord⁄tenant help, food vouchers, a food pantry run by volunteers, emergency medical help, neck pendants so help can be summoned, cultural programs, Meals on Wheels and language translation. The city has frozen the money Marshall provides, which will cause it to close unless the funds are restored.

Patricia Dolan, director of Queens Connection, which provides para−transportation for seniors through the Queens Community House, said DFTA plans for 2009 will omit community center−based transportation.

Vision Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired helps 3,000 clients in need of funding. SAGE’s Chris Lenon spoke for the senior gay, lesbian and transgendered who need care. Martha Wolf, director of the Alzheimer’s Institute at Parker Jewish Institute, spoke of the need to provide money for transportation, which Marshall provides.

Amy Wenarsky spoke for the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, which assists 35 Jewish councils in the city. It needs the money to help the poor. The small Corona Congregational Church’s feeding location is threatened with closing because it is under−utilized, but feeds 400 people daily.

It is said a society is judged on how well it takes care of its elderly. Will large, profit−driven, centralized locations service our elderly properly?

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The city is in financial trouble due to greed and criminal activities. Costs must be cut. How they will be cut will determine the nature of our society.

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