LSCC asks for Hospital Board grant

By C.J. Barbre

Sounding as nervous as a school girl on her first date, President of the Board of the Lindsay-Strathmore Coordinating Council Cindy Rios approached the Lindsay District Hospital Board with a request for funding at their November meeting on the 23rd.

Perhaps the incongruity was that, although the hospital board takes care of business, their meetings tend to be pretty laid back, especially with the witty remarks that frequently emanate from board president Steven Boles and even more so from board member Greg McQueen. And they could not possibly have been more welcoming or accommodating.

When it came time for new business, Rios bravely plowed through her presentation. "Thank you for getting me on the agenda. I'm here on behalf of the Lindsay-Strathmore Coordinating Council. I'm sure you have all been hearing about the Coordinating Council. It is dying on the vine to use your words. Donations from the churches have not been coming in as they used to.

"Because of recording issues we did not receive a $19,000 grant from United Way. As a result, we have been staying open off of reserves in the bank. We have reduced our hours and are only open on the days now that we provide food to the community.

"I come here today to see if we can solicit a donation from the Hospital Board. Nourishment is a health issue. The majority of the people we serve are the working poor. At the end of the day there is not enough money for many of them to pay the bills.

"I don't know for sure if we will be open until the end of the year."

Rios continued, saying that she has a meeting scheduled with another facilitator at United Way, Ernie Hernandez. Because of the holiday, the Gazette did not have a opportunity to speak with Hernandez prior to press time. "Reports that were due by the [previous] director and audits did not happen. The board assumed those things were being taken care of. Actually I was working very closely with Jim Maxfield [of United Way] to get that funding. I went out there and jumped through hoops. We've had to justify expenses. We were awarded $19,000 for December, but never got it."

Rios had come full circle and Hospital Board Member Rachel Hill stepped up to the plate with a question. "Why weren't these things brought up in February through April?"

"It was April when I became aware, then, all of a sudden this big audit with the feds came up and I was told [by the former director] 'I just didn't know. I put it in the drawer.' In truth, United Way didn't have a lot of confidence in us. There are four of us on the board and we are all working people," Rios said by way of further explanation.

Boles asked, "So now you are just open during volunteer hours?"

"Articles in the paper have stimulated donations. Right now we are paying for two part-timers. You have to buy food from FoodLink. Some things are free, others are at reduced prices. I think pudding was one item within our reach. We had other food items in stock [for Thanksgiving week]," Rios responded.

"So on a weekly basis how much food do you give away?" Hill asked.

Rios said that 350 to 400 families come to the Coordinating Council for food on a monthly basis. She noted that the school district has free breakfasts and lunches, saying dinner and weekends are at issue for these families.

Someone asked about Food Stamps. Rios replied that the Coordinating Council encourages their clients to apply for Food Stamps.

"Why don't they want Food Stamps?" asked Hospital Board member Wanda Wollenman. "Fear?"

"Fear and pride. It takes a lot for them to come in. They have to be handled carefully. When I say 350 to 400 families, it's not always the same families. Sometimes it's transients," Rios explained.

There was a bit more discussion or speculation as to whether the services provided by the Coordinating Council would be assumed by the Wellness Center until it was pointed out that regardless, the Wellness Center would not be open and operational in less than six months and likely a lot longer - a long time without a food bank.

Finally she popped the question. "I would like to ask for a donation of $1,500 or so, not a huge amount. If we are able to receive some gift from heaven, at least something for the time being . . . I don't see the Hospital Board in the position of United Way . . ."

Readers no doubt know that the purpose of the Hospital Board is to distribute county tax dollars for health issues. It presently has $1.46 million in the bank although a million of that is for the Wellness Center and the Hospital Board is also committed to some operating expenses once the Wellness Center opens. In the meantime their projected net revenue for next year is $336,498. All of these figures were reviewed earlier in the meeting.

Attorney for the Hospital Board Starr Warson said, "Basically the board is there to provide health care." When there was a Lindsay Hospital, almost everything the board received went to that operation. "Then there is preventative care - diabetes, etc. I think the thing the board has always done is to minimize the load on other hospitals." Warson said the board was operating in this fashion when it provided insurance and safety equipment for the Lindsay Recreation Authority sports programs.

"This is a board decision, but the board has to be comfortable to decide if this is close enough to health care," Warson concluded.

Boles said the board could not subsidize salaries for the Coordinating Council. "It could be used for purchasing food," he said. It was noted that recipients of the food would need to live in the hospital district, and that the funds would have to be accounted for with copies of receipts, and a letter would need to be sent that the funds were received.

Finally, all voted in favor of granting the Lindsay-Strathmore Coordinating Council $1,500 for food.

"We will be able to provide nice Christmas baskets," Rios said.

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