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Canton Meals on Wheels nutrition site is in danger

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CANTON — The nutrition site where Meals on Wheels serves senior citizens in Canton is in jeopardy if St. Lawrence County transfers an employee to a different location.

“They’re not closing the site, but in reality, it might do that,” said Susan L. Cushman, resident service coordinator for Canton Housing Authority, which operates two senior citizen complexes on Riverside Drive. “I think all the sites are needed. It’s all about the residents and the community.”

County Office for the Aging Director Nancy A. Robert said a decision has not been made.

“We’re just looking at innovative ways of providing the same service,” she said. “We’re here proposing plans within a tough economic time. We’re trying to partner within the means of the budget.”

Ms. Cushman said the Housing Authority was notified in July that the county intended to transfer Canton’s sole employee as of Sept. 1.

“They want our employees to do in the dining room what the county employee is doing,” Ms. Cushman said. “It’s more than standing there.”

When the Housing Authority complained about the short notice, an extension was made until Jan. 1.

Meals on Wheels are offered in the dining room at 37 Riverside Drive as a noon lunch Monday through Friday. The meals also are delivered by volunteers to residents in their apartments.

The county employee works part-time to set up the room, dish out the meals, collect the money, do the cleanup and complete paperwork, Ms. Cushman said.

“Right now, I’m down two people. I really don’t have staff to put in the kitchen. We’re all being cut,” Ms. Cushman said. “To try to have a volunteer do that wouldn’t work. You can’t work a volunteer like you would an employee.”

Although the meals come mostly prepared, Ms. Cushman said, the employee occasionally cooks or reheats food.

“They call us a satellite site because we don’t make meals to go out in the community,” Ms. Cushman said. “To say we don’t do any cooking, we do.”

Ms. Cushman was told the Canton site averages 13 diners, but she said she believes attendance is often much higher, depending on the time of year and what is served.

The Housing Authority provides the space to the county at no cost, along with utilities and telephone. Ms. Cushman said he suspects the Canton site was chosen to lose its employee because people think meals are only for residents.

To combat that idea, the Housing Authority unlocks its door at 11:15 a.m. so members of the community can come in without difficulty and it has been advertising the availability of the meals, Ms. Cushman said.

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