By jeanne starmack
NEW CASTLE, Pa.
In the basement at Patches Place on Friday morning, Joe Coxson, Louie Formataro and Anthony Sipe sat together, ate and talked bowling.
Coxson, who’s in charge of the drop-in center’s Wii bowling team, seemed a little worried.
“I want the people to practice, and they haven’t been,” he said. Meanwhile, the monthly challenge from a drop-in center in Beaver County was coming up.
“I once bowled a 204,” Formataro said between bites of pancakes and hard-boiled eggs.
At several tables nearby, other Patches Place regulars were taking advantage of a good breakfast, too — part of the center’s plan to teach its clients the importance of a healthy start to the day.
Patches Place, a behavioral health center and social day program for mentally ill and homeless people, provides breakfast each weekday.
Coxson and Sipe acknowledged that if the center did not do so, they probably wouldn’t bother to eat in the morning.
Upstairs at the center, William Arthur Hurd was in the gym lifting weights. Hurd, who is homeless and sometimes lives with a friend, at the City Rescue Mission or outside in a tent, knows the importance of healthy habits.
Hurd said he comes to the center five days a week.
“They have things here to contribute to your health,” he said. “This is one of them,” he added as he continued to lift.
Hurd also pointed out that when he’s living in a tent, he especially appreciates the breakfast.
The center would like to continue providing breakfast — unfortunately, its big, modern, state-of-the-art upright freezer isn’t cooperating toward that goal.
Maggie Kulich, Patches Place administrative assistant, said the freezer got temperamental at some point over the Columbus Day weekend.
“It just decided not to get cold and destroyed all the food,” she said. “The worst thing was the melted butter and the rancid smell.”
Gone, but certainly not forgotten until that smell cleared out, was $1,260 worth of breakfast food, said center director Sandi Hause.
The freezer began to work again, but Hause said she didn’t trust it enough to put food in it.
Sure enough, it died again Tuesday.
Stanley’s Appliance Repair in New Castle determined that the freezer’s computer board is faulty, and has offered to repair it at a steep discount, Kulich said.
But the cost of replacing the food is daunting on the center’s tight budget, Hause and Kulich say.
The center gets state funding that’s disbursed by the county, but state budget cuts have hurt, Kulich said.
The center also accepts donations and would appreciate the help in filling its freezer back up, they said.
Right now, they’re still offering what they can — a lot of oatmeal and toaster pastries, and May’s Donuts steps up to the plate, Hause said.
But they’ll gladly accept contributions of breakfast foods the first week in November.
By then, the freezer should be fixed.