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HEAL grant bolsters Workers' Center programs in Central New York

provided photo
Protesters from the Workers' Center in Batavia in 2018.

The Workers' Center of Central New York says it will use a new grant from the HEAL Food Alliance to help with some of the unexpected expenses its members can't cover due to rising costs and transportation issues.

Workers' Center Executive Director Jessica Maxwell said there is a great amount of need.

"We see a lot of workers still in really precarious situations, especially affording things like dental care. We just helped somebody with some dental expenses, for example. Accessing food pantries—we have a lot of rural members in isolated areas and transportation has been really expensive right now," Maxwell said.

Since the pandemic began, the Workers' Center has added services such as food delivery. Maxwell said a network of volunteers brings food to about 100 families a month in the Syracuse area who might not otherwise get it.

The HEAL Food Alliance is a coalition of 55 organizations working to transform food systems to make them more accessible to all.

Maxwell said the Workers' Center usually has in-person meetings to develop relationships with their clients. However, with numerous members in rural areas without reliable transportation, she said virtual meetings have become a trusted alternative.

"Really taking advantage of technology to be able to do remote consultations, video consults, to help people with paperwork, or facilitating a meeting online is something that's really, in some ways, opened up a lot of access to people who would have trouble getting to an in-person meeting," Maxwell said.

Even when the pandemic is over, Maxwell said she hopes to continue the center's virtual presence and other programs. However, she noted state elected officials appear to have split feelings about just where New York is in terms of the pandemic.

I am a hardworking journalist who has been reporting on current events since 2011. I began doing stories on mass transit in New York City and moved slowly towards social issues, current events, media, entertainment, etc. I have a background in multi-media journalism with my area of expertise being print and digital/online writing.