Sponsored by the Hill House Association Senior Services Center in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank over the past 12 years a familiar sight on any given Thursday during the months of June to November, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Hill House Association has been a Farm Stand offering fresh produce for purchase by the community.
However, the New Pittsburgh Courier received a letter expressing their dismay over learning that the Farm Stand was going to be discontinued. In the letter, the reader expressed that it was Hill House Association President and CEO Cheryl Hall-Russell who unilaterally made this decision. However, discontinuing the Farm Stand was in fact not a Hill House decision.
According to Eunice Boyd, director of the Senior Services Center, they went through their regular project preparation for the season in February of 2013, with all their standard training, orientation and logistical information sessions but by October 2013 they received a letter saying that this would be the last season for this location.
“They did not provide any lengthy explanation, just that it was a funding decision,” Boyd said. “We were also informed that the individual we had been working with to coordinate the effort over the years, had been laid off.
“Other than this, there was nothing official, only the letter letting us know how to make our final order to close out the season. And as soon as we knew what was happening, we begin explaining to our supporters and participants.”
The Hill House Association is not in the habit of closing programs, said Boyd.
“Cheryl (Hall-Russell, Hill House president and CEO) has been a total champion for food in this community, all off us were completely blind sided by this action on the part of the Food Bank.”
Every year the Department of Agriculture, through the Department of Aging, distributes vouchers to the seniors 62 and over for use at the farm stands. The Hill House is one of the sites that continued to distribute the vouchers. Boyd said when they distributed the vouchers they let folks know that they would not have the farm stands this year. “The good news is our seniors still have options, we actually conduct group trips through Access on Tuesdays to any of the other farm stands they may be interested in,” she said.
The farm stand, though discontinued is just one part of the many services and activities provided by the Senior Center.
They include on the third Thursday in every month a “Wings and Wine” Senior Happy Hour event with music and dancing, it’s designed to entice seniors of all ages, daily preparation of rent rebates, daily breakfast and lunch, many classes and educational forums on health and wellness, a fishing club where the seniors are taken to North Park and South Park to fish once a month, and a technology class called “bring your own device.”
“These programs and more are how we try to demonstrate a solid commitment to the lives of the senior residents of this community,” Boyd said. “We are here to serve, and this is why it would not be a Hill House decision to discontinue the Farm Stand.”
(For more information about the Senior services, or to participate in any program they are open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 2038 Bedford Avenue; or reached by phone at 412-392-4450.)
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