The Sag Harbor Youth Committee has recently launched a new website, how did that idea come about?
We wanted to come into the 21st century. Certain people only go on to the Internet, and some of our committee felt very strongly about having a presence there.
We had to do a lot of research: who would help, the cost, the formant, and we still plan on adding a calendar going forward.
It’s very informative, with loads of listings and information. How long did it take you to put it together?
We started with it last winter, with a lot of volunteers, and just launched it a month or two ago.
The idea is providing information for families, and it covers the entire East End in many ways. All the facilities, beaches, campgrounds, tennis courts. A directory of information regarding this entire area.
And we have picked up on it from the printed brochure, like the images by Lynette Pintauro. We have revised the directory about every two years. Bob Wilson and Beth Barth had done the first one, and they did a tremendous amount of research.
Initially there was talk about making the website make money with advertising. But we didn’t want to make this look like a commercial venture, we are not in any form.
What was the impetus for starting the Youth Committee?
There were two main impetuses.
The Christmas tree lights had been put up on Main Street one year and the next day the kids had broken all the bulbs. The youth of Sag Harbor had been hanging around on Main Street and, to a stranger, it would appear threatening. We needed to do something.
What we did next was a survey we handed at schools, asking what things the children wanted to do . Our thought was there wasn’t enough for kids to do other than sports.
Then we had two incredible speakouts. The first one had all the people from the town rec departments, the police chiefs, school officials, the mayor. We had students ask the questions.
What came out of that was an unhappiness with the school
The second year, interestingly, it was mostly concerns about the environment.
During this time we started researching the community, in ways to steer the kids and asking people for information and businesses for scholarships. Bay Street Theater started a program for 10 year olds, then there was a cooking class, then a baby sitting class.
We discovered that Bridgehampton had an open rec night, so we asked why don’t we have one? Then we started an open rec on Saturday nights with help from town money.
Then we started with a folded over calendar of events, which we published about four times a year, and that morphed into the directory.
We started a bus to the beach. We also worked hard to have an open after school place.
The school’s YARD program morphed from all this, and I have to give credit to then-school board president Gerry Wawryk, who helped establish the summer program.
What changes have you seen in the needs for local youth?
There is so much more offered now. Plus the education and affluence of the community has changed. People want more for their kids and will take them to Buckskill for ice skating, or take them riding or to the Bay Street program. But there are also a whole lot that aren’t affected by that.
There is a need to broaden their interests beyond the Internet, beyond games, beyond sports. There’s a need for socialization in a group environment. For example, Bay Street picks up the child beyond the sports. Teen programs at the library are a resource that didn’t exist when we started. CMEE is reaching out more.
Where do you see growth in youth services in the future?
There are many challenges, you have budget cuts and a 2 percent spending cap. You reach children in many different ways, through art, through drama, or youth services like SYS. Cutting out these programs is devastating to the growth of our children. It’s scary if you want to know the truth.
What have you learned from the youth of Sag Harbor?
That you have to grow with the times. I’ve learned also they will spend money in ways that years never ago was never spent. They’ll buy lunch rather than make it. They’re much more frivolous, they’ll buy something when they want it. It’s a disposable society.
One of the things about our resort community is that kids work younger and get much more money than other areas in the country.
Also, I’ve seen a lot of our children become more involved with the community organizations; they’ll volunteer at The Retreat, Amaryllis Horse Farm, being a volunteer at the library, a Big Brother or Big Sister.
I’m also learning to trust them more.
What were your favorite things to do as a kid?
Walk on stilts. I was very good. I built my own.
I played tennis, basketball, field hockey. Those were my main interests, I was athletic.
But after school you’d find me walking in the garden on my stilts.
The Sag Harbor Youth Committee website is http://www.sagharborkids.org/.