white township bldg sign

It was the day of the dueling … food services?

The White Township Board of Supervisors often have had meetings recently where it has crossed swords with Friends of White’s Woods over plans for the White’s Woods Nature Center on the edge of downtown Indiana.

To an extent, that did happen again Wednesday, but there also was another issue seeking the supervisors’ attention.

Chevy Chase Community Center Executive Director Barbara Croce was making a pitch for “Meals 2 You,” a new home delivery program. She called it a tweaking of the Meals on Wheels program.

“We are not specifically serving seniors,” Croce said. “We are serving homebound, unable-to-cook or disabled people of Indiana Borough and White Township.”

If there is a new pandemic “or whatever might happen,” the Chevy Chase director said her organization wanted to be ready. She said meals would be served along with a welfare check Monday through Friday.

“The meal is going to be $5 a meal, or $25 a week, with a possibility of it being free if they can’t afford it,” Croce said. “If they cannot afford it, we will first encourage them and help them to sign up for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), food stamps, and if that doesn’t work then we will help them financially for the meal.”

She said 14 percent of the population is “food insecure.” They are among those the Chevy Chase center seeks to empower “the disadvantaged community of Indiana, with love, nutrition and education.”

Croce said she is seeking funding to help her organization through the first year. She said she had a verbal commitment for $10,000 from Indiana Borough, while the Indiana County commissioners is considering the idea.

“After the first year I expect that we won’t need the extra money because money will be flowing in,” Croce said.

She said she was trying to fill a need, and that she wasn’t seeking to step on anyone’s shoes, such as those of longtime Indiana Meals on Wheels director Marty Yachisko, who said that need already was being filled.

“We don’t just serve (the) elderly,” Yachisko said. “We will serve anybody who has a need.”

According to brochures, the Indiana Meals on Wheels director handed out, “Meals on Wheels is the name for a program which delivers nutritious meals to the aged, convalescent and handicapped who are unable to prepare adequate meals for themselves.”

Saying “it’s a free country and they have the right to do what they want,” Yachisko still wondered “why we don’t go together, (and) serve whoever.” She also denied a Meals 2 You claim that “we are overloaded.”

Meals on Wheels funds itself, Yachisko said, citing, among other sources, an annual golf tournament, though she acknowledged the tournament was canceled last year because of weather and then canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meals on Wheels operates locally out of the American Legion Post 141 kitchen and Yachisko expressed her indebtedness to that organization.

After the presentations by representatives of the two food programs, the supervisors heard others in the audience, including members of Friends of White’s Woods.

FWW President Sara King sought to answer a question posed by board Chairman George Lenz about what her organization has done for the White’s Woods Nature Center.

“Our most important accomplishment so far is that 250 acres of trees are 25 years older than if the 1995 plan had been implemented,” King said, referring to battles with the township over previous plans for White’s Woods in 1995 and again in 2007.

There have been other accomplishments, too, King said, “with considerable support from our members,” including the spreading of mulch on trails; repairing a bridge; planting trees and wild flowers, with approval; cutting wild grape vines; routinely picking up litter; and reporting unwanted activities to authorities, including motorized vehicles in the park, after dark campfires and partying, and illegal dumping.

The list covers much of two typewritten pages and touched upon Project 70, the 1964 state legislation under whose terms the township purchased the acreage now known as White’s Woods. FWW said it had conducted extensive research on Project 70 guidelines, and had hired legal counsel on three occasions to research Project 70 regulations.

Also, King said, “a long-term plan, though recommended by FWW, has mostly been ignored.” She urged the supervisors to check out the FWW list as well as the 250-plus pages of information it handed out to the supervisors in July.

Ahead of all that, Lenz issued a statement “with regard to discussion and response to the Stewardship Plan and future endeavors of White’s Woods by the board.”

The statement recalled the presentations of plans by two foresters to preserve the roughly 250-acre tract straddling the Indiana Borough line.

“Both agree the understory is in need of attention,” Lenz said. “The overpopulation of deer is also a factor in regeneration of the understory,” the forest floor.

At the July 22 board meeting, Michael Wolf of Appalachian Forest Consultants of suburban Johnstown addressed the board, as did David Babyak, who was called in by the township board in 2007.

Lenz said the pair provided two different methods on how to approach the understory.

Also speaking at the July meeting was Mike Lawer of Millstone Land Management LLC of Marion Center, the township contractor for White’s Woods.

But the board chairman’s statement also focused on how the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources had yet to comment on the stewardship plan submitted to the state agency for its review.

“Until comments are received from DCNR and reviewed by the board, there is no reason for the board or its management to spend time and energy developing additional planning and responses to White’s Woods concerns,” Lenz said. “Guests attending our meetings in person and by phone are welcome to speak. This statement is not meant to serve as a deterrent to input by interested parties but as a response to be used in our public meeting in respect to time and to eliminate redundancy.”