Even though the Highland branch of Community Action has shuttered its doors and been moved to Ellenville, it did not stop a few dedicated staff, in partnership with Sullivan County, along with Ulster County Legislator Gina Hansut, from returning to help those in need of food in Highland.
Hansut said, “they bring the big food truck and they have pre-made bags of staple items and there are always frozen meats, which is really a game changer for some people, fresh bakery items, canned and boxed goods and sometimes fresh produce. People can take what they need and they’re [staff] very gracious to them.”
Hansut estimated that about 50 people came to the Pop Up Food Pantry last week, and shortly after they opened, “there was nothing left, as everything was given out.”
Hansut said four days before the Highland branch closed she took a position on the Board of Directors of Community Action.
“I was so excited to do that because Community Action had been a staple in our community,” she said. “When I heard through the grapevine that is had closed I said we need this in my community because people utilize it very much.”
After Hansut took a tour of the Community Action Center in Kingston she left feeling even more strongly that it needs to be re-established in Highland. As a start, this lead to the Pop Up Food Pantry days at the Biancardi Parking lot at 11 Milton Avenue.
“We did one in July and one in September and the plan is to do another one in November,” she said.
The Community Action website [www.uccac,org] states that they are a nonprofit agency, “committed to eliminating poverty and promoting self-sufficiency by providing various programs and services for individuals and families serving Ulster and Sullivan Counties.”
Community Action administers the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) in Ulster and Sullivan Counties, while in Ulster County the Weatherization Program and EmPower Program, Head Start and Early Head Start Programs are funded primarily by various state and federal government agencies.
Generally, the recipients of the benefits of these programs must meet certain income criteria established by the respective government agencies. “Services are designed to increase self-sufficiency and to empower those we serve to meet their human needs adequately.”
Hansut said Community Action, “is a well-oiled machine” in the way they obtain and distribute the items they receive from Hannaford, Shop Rite and Price Chopper.
“I think that a lot of people don’t expect themselves to be in a difficult situations but it happens and it’s OK to get help and that’s why we’re doing what we do,” she said. “Everybody goes through good times and bad times; financially it’s hard and food is expensive for everybody.”
Hansut says today people who need help come from all walks of life.
“The young couple who are struggling, it could be an older couple with one of them who has become disabled, single parents, traditional and multi-generational families. I don’t think it knows any limit anymore,” she said.
Hansut said the main reason she got into public service is to help people.
“So when you can do something and see it be an immediate help to somebody, that’s a really good feeling,” she said. “In government sometimes things take awhile to make a difference and this is something that is so immediate that it’s a really good thing.”
Hansut noted that in November Community Action is running a coat drive, Toys for Tots and Thanksgiving baskets.
After Community Action closed in Highland, just opposite Town Hall, she began working with Lloyd Supervisor Dave Plavchak on finding another place for them in town.