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Social Services director describes duties to Selectmen

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KENT—Social Services Director Samantha Hasenflue described what her office does and where it meets challenges during the Board of Selectmen’s Feb. 12 special budget meeting.

Hasenflue said she has seen a huge increase in need. “There is an increase in the cost of everything and the number of people seeking service. There is a whole lot of need in town and we’re working our hardest to meet that need.”

She said her office serves 50 households for energy assistance, and 30 to 35 households weekly at the food bank, a “huge increase” from the previous 25 clients. “Some weeks I might have 10 to 15 direct clients and that is dependent on their needs,” she said.

She is hired for 32 hours a week, but averages 35 or more hours a week. Her assistant, Rosemary Jones, is capped at 14 hours.

Hasenflue said it is a challenge for the two women to meet all the tasks required of them. She is responsible for ordering food for the food bank, meeting with clients who need assistance with such things as energy costs, food stamps, health assistance, Social Security and the like. Jones takes care of preparing outreach materials, fields phone calls, takes care of scheduling and runs major events such as the senior lunches. Just the latter duty, which requires certification, can take four hours.

Hasenflue said she has had interns from colleges that she mentored and that helped with physical tasks at the food bank and luncheons. Volunteers also assist in running the programs.

Selectman Glenn Sanchez wondered if the number of lunches offered could be increased. Hasenflue said a twice-weekly program was offered at Templeton Farm that eventually dwindled in the number of participants. “Then Covid hit, and everything stopped. The biggest thing is we need a certified food manager when we are giving out food. Rosemary is certified, which is why she has to be present.”

She said she is trying to increase the pool of certified volunteers but must figure out how to handle the cost of training. As it is, three to four volunteers are needed for each lunch.

“Lunches are definitely a big thing,” she said. “I hope to lean more on [the private] schools to see if I can get them into a more regular thing of donating food and help. And I have reached out to the restaurants. They have been generous, but I don’t know if they can continue on a regular basis.”

She said the senior center has reopened and is offering more recreational programs. “It’s important to get people out,” she said.

Transportation is a major problem. There are public transport services such as Northwest Transit and, sometimes, Geer Village’s bus, but service has been “hit or miss” and Kent seems to be “off their maps,” she observed. And FISH, which provided volunteer drivers to take seniors to medical appointments and shopping, has ceased.

First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer asked about recreational bus trips and Hasenflue said she has tried to partner with Warren to provide them. Planning for just one local trip to the Christmas Tree Shops in Danbury consumed 10 hours of her time. Staffing the buses could require another four to eight hours. “At this point, I’m not sure we’re in a position to offer them,” she said.

Selectman Lynn Mellis Worthington suggested partnering with Park & Rec to provide the service.

Kathryn Boughton
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