BELLE GLADE — The Guardians of the Glades put on a Facebook Live presentation Thursday evening, April 2, titled the “Glades-Area Virtual Town Hall Meeting,” that was intended to calm public fears and uncertainty, and instill confidence in local leaders striving to help people stay safe through the coronavirus pandemic.
Scheduled speakers were: State Rep. Tina Polsky; the Tri-City leaders, Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, Pahokee Mayor Keith Babb and South Bay Mayor Joe Kyles; Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay; Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Emory Payne; Glades Region Superintendent of Schools Angela Moore; CareerSource Manager Charles Duval; the PBC Office of Equal Business Opportunity’s Tonya Johnson; PBC Community Services Department Director James Green; Turia Hayden the Church of Bethesda by the Sea Outreach & Development Department in Palm Beach; and PBC School Board member Marcia Andrews.
But as with the Belle Glade City Commission meeting earlier Thursday, Wi-Fi signals and cellphone reception inside the chamber at city hall were spotty or causing speakers’ sentences to be continually interrupted in mid-thought. The broadcast was paused soon after it began. DJ Church Boy (Albert V. Polk IV) later reposted it, or most of it, on his own Facebook page. On Friday, April 3, it appeared to be online only on the page at facebook.com/GuardiansoftheGlades.
Here’s a synopsis of the various officials’ remarks.
• CareerSource Manager Charles Duval stated: “We want to make sure that we are here for the community while we all navigate this difficult time. If anyone has employment questions, our number in the office is 561-829-6040, or visit our website at careersourcepbc.com.”
• James Green: “Right now you can still access services for … electric (and utility or water) bill assistance online, at pbcgov.com/oscarss … in addition … if you are in need of rental assistance or addiction prevention assistance, you can call 561-904-7900. You can also apply for that online at the same address as well. If you have any difficulties with (that), you can call 561-355-4792. … We are continuing to provide those emergency services. As far as our senior services … our senior sites are now closed, our day care center is closed; however, we are utilizing those sites for food distribution. We are now having all of the food delivered to our senior centers. … We now have Palm Tran that’s picking up two weeks’ worth of shelf-stable meals and delivering them to the home of those seniors, and for those who used to drive to the congregate meal sites, they are driving to the senior centers and picking their meals up.” He said The Elder Helpline can help seniors get access to needed services; call 866-684-5885. Or if you are not a senior citizen and need food, call 211; they will direct anyone to the nearest food bank. His direct number is 561-355-4703; leave your email address if you need Mr. Green’s help.
• Tonya Johnson: “The Office of Equal Business Opportunity continues to remain functional, with all of our services online, but we have discontinued any in-person meetings. But you can still contact us by calling our office at 561-616-6840.” She said the office would release on Friday a list “with detailed descriptions of all the various funding opportunities that are out there for small businesses,” which include newly established Small Business Administration-guaranteed bank loans under the CARES Act passed this week and a host of other government and private opportunities for financing.
• Turia Hayden: “We focus on three core areas, in education, food and shelter… we’re going to continue to provide services throughout the community. In education, we are committed into helping the children in terms of the virtual learning and helping in virtual tutoring … we’re continuing with our mentoring program in the Glades … we are put here to be ‘bonus parents’ for these children, whatever these kids need in the community. In terms of shelter we are going to continue to do rental assistance without judgment … because at the end of this crisis, rent will be due. We are going to continue to be what God put us here to do, and that is to be a blessing to these families. In terms of food, all the pantries are eventually going to run out, so … if a family or a senior need food and can’t get to the store … I’m going to go on Amazon Prime and I’m going to get them some food. I’m going to do for other families what I want someone to do for my family. So my number is 561-853-0962; my email address is email@example.com. But I want real needs, people that really need the help.”
• Mayor Keith Babb of Pahokee: “Our top priority is the health and safety of our residents. I urge the community at large to immediately take steps to help stop the spread of this deadly virus.” He echoed other speakers in reiterating that people must abide by federal and state guidelines and urging the public to limit their contacts and movements outside their homes. Be responsible and part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
• Mayor Joe Kyles of South Bay: “We express in general every day to take this virus very seriously. We see in South Bay a couple of areas where (people) are still gathering. We are constantly educating those individuals about these social gatherings … (that) they’re not permitted. … We have the potential to look out for each and every one because if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it for us? Let’s continue to keep the faith.”
Tammy Jackson-Moore, leader of the guardians group, then read questions relayed by listeners to some of the speakers and got answers for people. The forum lasted for about an hour.