CW Human Services’ letter responds to council comments about grant

After reading the article, “CW presses grant applicants” in the Feb. 9 Southeast Messenger, I felt compelled to respond as there are several inaccuracies that need to be addressed and corrected.

The comment by city of Canal Winchester officials that the only 2013 final report received was provided by the Art Guild, is not true. Our final report for 2013 which was was submitted at the same time our 2014 grant application was turned into the city. As required, the final report shared information about the way the 2013 grant funding was used and we were fully compliant with the purpose in which the 2013 grant was intended. I do not understand how Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon could say she was unaware of how the funding provided was used; our final report clearly states it was used to help with the expenses incurred to administer the annual Football For Food/Pizza For Food fundraiser that supports the Community Food Pantry.

This event costs Canal Winchester Human Services approximately $10,000 each year. The expenses include buying out the gate of the scheduled football game ($7,500), media expense that includes flyers to all students, posters throughout town, and banners (approximately $1,000), the cost of the pizza parties for each building (approximately $500) and miscellaneous incidental expenses (approximately $500) in addition to the staff time needed to facilitate the event The 2013 Bed Tax Grant provided by the city specifically stated that the city would be a sponsor of the event in exchange for the $1,500 grant that was received.

Councilman Steve Donahue is correct in stating the pizza expenses were donated, however the cost of the pizza was only part of the $10,000 in total expenses that were incurred for this community event that supports the Food Pantry. Walmart, Diley Ridge Medical Center, Canal Banking Center, Waste Management and the city each paid $1,500 which was the gate fee charged by the athletic department of Canal Winchester Local Schools.

Regarding Ms. Mershon’s further quotes, “We give money to Human Services for drivers, gas and upkeep. They pick up these people for luncheons and activities. They are getting quite a bit already. They use the van for club activities. When you look at it, all the money comes from the city already. To give them service in other areas doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. You don’t even have to live in the district to join the club. I really think giving them the drivers and the van is plenty,” she is correct that the city helps fund the Senior Transportation Program. The city is very generous in their support of our Senior Transportation Program. There probably would not be a Senior Transportation Program if it were not for the support of the city. However, as Ms. Mershon should be fully aware, the Senior Transportation Program has nothing to do with our request for their support through the 2014 Bed Tax Grant. Our 2014 request is for the city to be a sponsor of all the fundraising events we administer throughout the year specifically for the support of the Community Food Pantry. In 2014, these will include our SOUPer Bowl Open House, the Pack the Pantry and Football for Food/Pizza for Food. These and other events are important to the Food Pantry each year to help keep food on the shelves for the clients who need our assistance.

Ms. Mershon should also be aware the funding that the city provides to Human Services through our current agreement is primarily used to support Senior Transportation and also includes $14,500/per year, which supports the administration of our Community Outreach Program. Our fourth quarter report required per our agreement verifies that zero monies from the said agreement support the Community Food Pantry – not one cent.

As indicated in the report, 20 percent of our current Food Pantry clients live in the city of Canal Winchester even though the city does not provide any funding to support the rent or utilities we pay (about $25,000/year), purchase any of the food we distribute or contribute to the staff compensation necessary to administer the service of the Food Pantry to the community. The only funding we request from the city specific for the Food Pantry at this time is through the city’s Bed Tax Grant. It is unclear to me why the Senior Transportation is even mentioned when the topic being highlighted in the article is regarding the city’s bed tax grant.

I also feel compelled to speak in support of the Senior Citizen Club. While it is true the holiday concert they had intended in support of the annual Adopt-A-Family project had to be cancelled in 2013, the monies they receive from the Bed Tax Grant were not specific to just that concert. It is truly unfortunate that the article gives the impression that the Senior Citizen Club did not use the funding appropriately. Again, indicating that the Senior Citizen Club should receive less grant funding in 2014 because the city already pays for transportation makes no sense as one has nothing to do with the other. None of the funding requested by the Senior Citizen Club would be used to fund the Senior Transportation Program. The Senior Transportation Program of Canal Winchester Human Services and the Canal Winchester Senior Citizen Club are two completely separate entities; something Ms. Mershon and members of council should understand and realize.

Council should know the good works of the Senior Citizen Club and they should be taking every opportunity to support them. The Senior Citizen Club does many things throughout the year to encourage social interaction for the senior citizens of Canal Winchester. They provide a weekly congregate meal at a nominal cost. On a regular basis, health screenings are provided, social activities such as euchre tournaments and bingo are held monthly and the Out to Lunch Bunch trip often has standby space only because it is so beloved by those that attend. The Club also gives back to the community throughout the year including their monthly collection of food for the Community Food Pantry and partnerships with the school district such as the annual Team Feed where the seniors prepare and serve a meal to the high school football team. It is vital communities offer opportunities for social engagement for the elderly and the Senior Citizen Club of Canal Winchester does exactly that.

Canal Winchester Human Services often has the opportunity to partner with the city and the Senior Citizen Club, which is of benefit to all involved. In May, we coordinate a Community Care Day bringing the high school football team out on a May Saturday offering volunteer service and manual labor to the Canal Winchester elderly as they prepare their homes for the summer months. Certainly we are pleased to offer transportation to many Canal Winchester seniors each week so that they can benefit from the Tuesday congregate meal, play on the Senior Citizen Club’s volleyball team, or take advantage of what the Food Pantry has to offer. It is a partnership between the city, Canal Winchester Human Services and the Senior Citizen Club. Three separate entities working together for the good of the community. It is disappointing that Ms. Mershon and possibly other council members do not understand that.

The article as printed tarnishes our integrity and no doubt gives the impression that neither Canal Winchester Human Services or the Senior Citizen Club have been forthcoming or have appropriately used funds provided by the city. That is just not the case. The quotes provided by Ms. Mershon and others has provided comment on so many things that have nothing to do with the Bed Tax Grant and sadly, if I were not in the fray, I would think the Senior Citizen Club was not using appropriated funds correctly and that Canal Winchester Human Services was down right greedy. Both of which are so far from the truth.

Canal Winchester Human Services has always been, an open book. I have offered on countless occasions to be available to members of the city council to answer any questions they may have. We have accommodated all requests to see transportation records, and I have encouraged each and every council member to contact me if they have any questions, concerns or do not understand something we are doing. To their credit, many council members have accepted that outreach and do contact me when they need clarification. I was appreciative that Steve Donahue and Marilyn Eikelberry attended our SOUPer Bowl Open House benefiting the Community Food Pantry. In addition, I was especially grateful Joe Abbott and Will Bennett (along with his entire family) both volunteered and worked the event the entire day. I have always requested and encouraged members of council to be involved in what we do because I truly believe if members of council understand the services we provide for the benefit of Canal Winchester, I am confident they will want to support our work.

Most of the quotes in the article are just plain wrong and/or have absolutely nothing to do with the Bed Tax Grant applications. I was completely unaware that council had any questions or misgivings about our grant request until I read the article. I can only hope council will take the time to understand all the entities that were included, to decipher the facts of the matter, discard quotes and comments that are not applicable to the topic at hand and then hopefully, provide grant funding to Canal Winchester Human Services in support of the Community Food Pantry and to the Senior Citizen Club as they requested, and feel satisfied about supporting the good things that are happening in Canal Winchester.

Penny Miller, administrator

Canal Winchester Human Services

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