Area organizations are working hard to fill the gap that will be left once the Joint Neighborhood Project closes its doors later this month.
Services that the JNP provides, including a food pantry which served roughly 80,000 meals last year - the Nearly New clothing store, which has clothing and household items; a summer day camp program for children ages 5-10; a live and learn English program, where basic English classes are taught to Spanish speakers; and a Hispanic service navigator program, which allows people who speak Spanish to come to the JNP and receive help - will no longer be available through the organization, which is currently located at 532 E. Second St.
While many of the programs have other options throughout the city, the Hispanic service navigator is one that may not see a continuation after the end of the month.
"It's a program that I think is going to be missed," said Max Martin, Eastside YMCA branch manager. "A lot of people that I know depend on the services of the navigator program - no one else has that around here."
According to Martin, the Eastside YMCA does provide some services for Hispanic residents through their organization, including family meetings and assistance when individuals need to go to the doctor or get downtown.
To have something that compares to the navigator position, an organization like the Eastside YMCA would need to hire someone here specifically for that job or bring Samantha Ellis in to continue as the Hispanic service navigator. That decision, according to Martin, would be up to the YMCA and the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County.
"I think there is a need for this service in Jamestown," said Martin. "My main concern is definitely kids, but my belief that as long as the family is healthy as a whole, it's easier to ensure that the children are in a healthy environment, too. It's a shame that it's going away, especially for the transient community of Jamestown. People move here because they have family in Jamestown, but they still need help."
Martin said that if the program were to be revived and he were asked to house it at the Eastside YMCA, he would gladly take the responsibility.
"If the program can be brought back and if they ask me if I can handle it, I would make a 110 percent effort to continue everything that the navigator was doing," said Martin.
ST. SUSAN CENTER
Food pantries around Jamestown are readying themselves for the extra families and individuals that will rely on them without the JNP, as well.
"We won't know how many more people we'll have to serve until it actually closes, but we are anticipating that we'll have quite a few more people," said Sue Colwell, St. Susan Center executive director. "With the JNP, there were a lot of kids that went down there, too."
Friday morning, Colwell and the rest of the St. Susan Center staff met to discuss ways that they could help those children that will be looking to them for meals this summer.
"We've decided to start a new initiative that we're calling 'Breakfast Tomorrow' to help the children that are affected," said Colwell. "When children come in for a meal, on their way out we'll give them something for breakfast the next morning. It won't be anything fancy, likely just some cereal and milk or a bagel. We know a lot of these kids have breakfast provided to them when they're in school, so we want to pick up where that leaves off this summer. Hopefully the community will see our vision and get involved because we think that this is really important."
According to Colwell, the summer season is a busy time for area food pantries, so the St. Susan Center is working to recruit new volunteers and get the word out that they need community support. As for funding, Colwell said that one of the major funders for St. Susan Center recently approached her to let her know that should the organization need help, the funders would be there to assist.
"I believe that when they see our numbers and what we're doing they'll continue to support us," said Colwell. "The funders have always been supportive, along with the entire community."
Through a partnership with the Chautauqua Health Network, St. Susan Center has also invited area residents to plant gardens and donate the produce to the organization. Last year, St. Susan Center received more than 7,000 lbs of fresh produce, which helped to provide meals for those in need. Any excess food was distributed to other area pantries and the Food Bank of Western New York.
"We're definitely preparing to serve the clients that were served at JNP," said Jolene Holliday, of the Salvation Army. "We're presenting flyers next week so that everyone that uses the JNP is aware that they can come here for services - not only pantry services, but also financial services. We're trying to prepare as best we can."
Holliday said that she believes they could see as many as 150 to 200 more people more per month coming through the doors at the Salvation Army because of the closure. They've also been in talks with the Food Bank of WNY to let them know of the increased need for food that will likely follow.
"We've had conversations with the Food Bank and they've increased our food allotment," said Holliday. "We've also had conversations with other funding sources to make them aware of the upcoming change. They've expressed their concern and interest in how we're going to handle the increased client base."
The Eastside YMCA is located at 727 E. Second St. For more information about the programs that they offer, visit www.jamestownymca.org or call 484-3729.
St. Susan Center is located at 31 Water St. in the Gateway Center. For more information about the services that are offered through St. Susan Center, visit www.stsusancenter.org or call 664-2253.
The Salvation Army is located at 83 S. Main St. For more information about the services that it offers, visit www.salvationarmyusa.org or call 664-4108.