Sunnyside group pushes on

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The spirit of the Muslim holiday of Eid inspired a Sunnyside−based Turkish organization to donate to its local senior center. But it may take more than the tidings of Eid to support Sunnyside Community Services, which may be facing its last holiday season in operation.

Veysel Ucan, director of the Turkish American Multicultural Educational Foundation in Sunnyside, helped a group of his colleagues haul 220 pounds of beef cubes into the Sunnyside Community Services Center for Active Adults last Thursday afternoon.

“In this holiday, people sacrifice sheep in the sake of God and they share it with their neighbors,” he said, noting the boxes of Hormel brand beef came from Manhattan−based Helping Hands Relief Foundation. “This is a kind of caring for our neighbors.”

The donation was a welcome gesture in a time when the future for the center is uncertain, the center’s staff said.

“It’s great,” said Richard McGrade, noting the beef will be prepared and served both in the center’s Meals on Wheels deliveries and at a lunch service at the center.

But those services may soon come to an end. McGrade said the city had just cut Sunnyside Community Services’ Meals on Wheels contract and the center only has funds to operate until May.

“We’re going to apply to [the city] DFTA [Department for the Aging] for additional funding,” he said. “I can’t believe they would invest all this money into the place and then not do something to keep it open.”

McGrade was referring to the nonprofit’s new center on the ground floor of its building on 39th Street. It opened Sept. 4.

DFTA this year announced a major restructuring plan, consolidating many Meals on Wheels operations to take advantage of economies of scale. The news alarmed senior centers in the borough, many of which rely primarily on Meals on Wheels funding.

DFTA has suggested in its requests for bids that as many as 85 local community senior centers may close down as a result of this process.

The news came as DFTA Commissioner Edwin Mendez−Santiago, who spearheaded the restructuring of the city’s Meals on Wheels system, unexpectedly resigned Friday after seven years on the job.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised Mendez−Santiago for helping seniors with rent issues, employment and home care.

“I thank Edwin for his service and commitment and know that he leaves a strong foundation of innovation and efficiency which will serve us well as we prepare our city for a 45 percent increase in the number of seniors living here by 2030,” he said in a prepared statement.

It was unclear how Mendez−S­antiago’s resignation would affect the restructuring plan.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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