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City Council members discuss Food & Friends Inc. donation

No indication offered as to whether organization will get $5,000 request

August 17, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

Hagerstown City Council members gave little indication Tuesday whether they will provide financial support to a Washington, D.C., charity that supplies meals to people in Washington County living with life-challenging diseases.

City staff presented a request to the council Aug. 3 from Food & Friends Inc. for $5,000 to support its operations in Washington County.

In previous discussion, the council was divided on funding the organization, sparking debate among members at the Aug. 3 work session.

The council will vote on the request at its Aug. 24 meeting.

Hagerstown cut funding for Food & Friends from its 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal year budgets, according to city documents.

Food & Friends provides meals and nutritional counseling to people living with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, according to its Web site http://www.foodandfriends.org.

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Questioning just how much Food & Friends invests in the community, the council asked staff in early August to obtain firm budgetary figures from the organization that would detail the cost of serving clients in Washington County as well as contributions from other county organizations or municipalities.

There was very little discussion Tuesday of the follow-up information provided by city staff.

Analyzing the information prepared by Community Resources Director Larry Bayer, Councilman Martin Brubaker noted Tuesday that Food & Friends is spending money in the Hagerstown community but is not receiving funding from other county organizations or governments.

"We are their only source of funding in the county," Bayer said, confirming Brubaker's analysis.

Food & Friends spends about $83,489 to provide meals and counseling to clients in Washington County, according to city documents.

While council members had little to say about the request Tuesday, their discussion Aug. 3 was lengthy.

No member of council objected to the organization or its operations in Washington County at the early August work session. Using public city dollars to support a D.C. organization, however, was met with a few raised eyebrows.

Councilman Forrest Easton brought up a long-standing concern of his that the city often addresses needs by writing checks rather than providing non-monetary solutions.

"I'm not suggesting we not fund them (Food & Friends)," he said previously. "I'm suggesting that our process is flawed. The problem I am having is not with this organization, it is with how we distribute funds in general."

Noting the size of the request, Easton said he felt that the organization could easily raise $5,000.

Councilman William Breichner questioned previously how much the organization actually operated in the area, saying that local organizations could also use city assistance.

"I can think of someone in this community that can use $5,000," he said.

"And that is better than giving food to terminally ill people?" Councilman Lewis C. Metzner asked Breichner on Aug. 3.

Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said previously that, to her knowledge, the organization is unable to receive local referrals without local financial support.

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