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Trading Post Community Care Center feeling the pinch

SPRINGVILLE — The Trading Post Community Care Center in Springville has been serving the community, both materially and spiritually, since Todd and Linette Crelly founded it in 1995. Located at 38 Franklin St. in Springville, the facility offers a food pantry, a community kitchen, fellowship and support of many kinds for the residents of southern Erie County and the Springville area. Although the Trading Post receives help from Wal-Mart, Tops, local donations and the Western New York Food Bank, Crelly said that the facility is feeling the budget squeeze that has trickled down through levels of government, and if she and her volunteers can’t get help somewhere, that squeeze could trickle down to the people they help, as well.

“Last year, we were alerted by the Hunger Action Network that we may be losing money, but you don’t really realize what that means until it happens,” Crelly explained.

This year, New York state cut about 50 percent of the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program funds, which supply food banks with their operating budgets. The food bank, which helps support the Trading Post, has allotted its smaller piece of the pie to food, which Crelly said “is a blessing, but there is no money left over to help us with operating expenses.” The Trading Post lost approximately $8,000 in operating expenses, and is now short about $5,000 per month, to help keep what Crelly called her “bare bones budget” afloat.

“We may have lost funding, but we’re confident that God can move our hearts to make up for it and more,” Crelly said. “There’s so much that goes into running a facility like this one; fuel, utilities, supplies. It’s how we have been able to grow, these last several years.”

And grow they have, Crelly noted. The Trading Post receives a refrigerated truck full of fresh food on the third Friday of the month at 1 p.m. There are no income requirements for individuals to partake in the offerings. Additionally, the post hosts an income-based food pantry, twice each month, and Crelly said bread and produce are put out on a daily basis, for those in need of emergency help.

Other Trading Post ministries include a gluten-free support group, which meets the last Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m., reduced-price haircuts, which are offered by a licensed cosmetologist volunteer every Saturday and a variety of seasonal outreach efforts.

All of these efforts have seen increased traffic, but Crelly said that is not unusual across similar outfits and, also similarly, the Trading Post is not alone in its need.

“I’m a team player. I encourage people to help each other, whether that’s donating to our pantry, volunteering here, doing outreach out of their home, or donating elsewhere. It’s all helping each other, and that’s what I’m all about.”

Recently, Crelly has been seeing more clients coming through her doors, even before the typically busy Thanksgiving season.

“In a month, we see about 500-600 people. Our top is close to 900,” she said, adding that the greatest number of people come from right outside Springville, and that she tries to refer people to locations closer to home, when possible.

“We all work together to do the most good, for the most people we can,” she added.

Crelly, the main administrator of the program, said that the Trading Post is in need of volunteers almost as much as donations, as she struggles to keep up with the daily demands of running the multi-faceted facility.

“We’re pretty much 90 percent volunteer-run,” she said, noting that she has spoken with volunteer coordinators at local school districts, but that more are always needed.

“We need people with computer skills, office skills, who are promotions savvy. If we can’t get the word out, we can’t get the help we need,” she added.

There are also volunteer opportunities for stay-at-home parents, Crelly added, in the form of at-home outreach ministries or coordinating projects from home.

The community kitchen in particular, has grown to greater numbers than Crelly said they imagined, when the outreach first started. At its conception, 20 people sat down to lunch at their tables. Now, more than 75 belly up to the table.

“People of all ages, income ranges and situations come to us,” Crelly said. “It’s more like one of those pay-what-you-can restaurants than a soup kitchen. We offer friendship and companionship as much as food, and we see all sorts come to take advantage of all of it.”

In the wake of the federal government shutdown that started this week, the food pantry may see even more participants, as the National Food and Nutrition Service has had to shut down Women, Infants and Children funding, which will run out within the next few weeks. If the shutdown continues, veterans benefits and some types of Social Security may follow, stretching the budgets of people who may not have frequented food pantries or facilities like the Trading Post, in the past.

“We need to help each other,” Crelly said. “That’s what we’re all about.”

One of those efforts is the Harvest Festival, which Crelly and her committee devised as a way to celebrate fall and the farmers’ annual harvest, as well as raise funds and awareness for her facility.

“The outreach center does so much for Christmas and the holiday season, we thought it’d be nice to have a fall event,” she said. “We’re really promoting the hunger aspect. Our farmers do so much for us and for the community, we wanted to celebrate with them.”

This year, the festival takes place on Oct. 26 and will feature a pie-baking contest, Krolick’s chicken barbecue, basket auction, a trade show and reverse bingo, which Crelly said she is particularly excited about.

“People get a bingo card and, when their number is called, they sit down. The goal is to be the last one standing,” she explained. “There are no dabbers, no ink, no writing anything down. It’s quick, it’s fun and it’s different!”

Crelly’s other favorite event is the local food tasting, which will see a variety of vendors from around the area bringing their wares to be sampled, so attendees can see what fall flavors are on offer.

“It’s really great to support the food aspect of it,” she said. “I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of wonderful options!”

Trade show vendors include what Crelly called “unique, high-quality” merchants. “It’s not a bazaar or a craft show,” she added. “Our goal is quality, not quantity.” Although the list of vendors has not been completely finalized and Crelly is still accepting applications, a few of those will be Pampered Chef, Dove chocolates, homemade soaps, upcycled jewelry, body wraps and more.

After the Harvest Festival finishes up, the Gobble for Groceries fun run is hot on its heels, on Thanksgiving morning. Next on deck is the center’s annual gift drive, which asks for clothing, twin-sized sheets and toys for children of all ages. The facility served 330 children last year, and Crelly said she only expects that number to grow.

“If you’re looking for something to do for the holiday season, some way to give back, we can plug you in,” Crelly said. “If you want to help right now, we can do that for you, too!”

Fellowship Hill Ministries, the parent ministry of the Trading Post, is located on Route 39 in Sardinia. Last year, the retreat and campground hosted 30 kids at its Christian camp, completely free of charge.

A second location, the Trading Post South, was opened about three years ago at 11 Washington St. in Cattaraugus. That facility is now run independently, although Trading Bucks, the post’s currency, can be distributed and used at both locations.

The Trading Post is open on Mondays from 6-9 p.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. On holiday weekends, the post is closed on Saturdays.

For more information or to volunteer at the local outreach, call the Trading Post at 592-4455 or visit fellowshiphill.tripod.com or www.facebook.com/fellowshiphill. Watch the Springville Journal for Trading Post news and event updates.


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