By Tessa Raebeck
In an effort to consolidate funding and ultimately reach more of Sag Harbor’s children, the Sag Harbor Youth Center and the Youth Advocacy and Resource Development (YARD Program) will officially join forces in 2014, after serving the community for a combined total of over 60 years.
The Youth Resource Center of Sag Harbor (YRC) is a non-profit, community-based agency that will support local kids through various recreational programs, workshops and trips.
“Our goal is to serve youth,” said Debbie Skinner, founder of YARD and the new program director for the YRC. “There was some duplication of services and this will really streamline things and will make best use of the available funds.”
County Legislator Jay Schneiderman started pushing for a merger of the two organizations two years ago when funding at the county level was decreasing for such programs.
“Because of the fiscal problems everything was kind of tightening up,” explained Schneiderman. “I had been funding both of these organizations with county grants and felt like I could no longer do that. I didn’t want to have to pick between them and defund one. My suggestion was that they merge so that they could speak with one voice and they could consolidate their administrative functions and hopefully reach more kids.”
Both organizations split around $60,000 in funding in the past, according to Schneiderman, who estimates that about $15,000 went to YARD and the remainder went to the youth center. The legislator estimates that the county’s 2014 budget will cut funding for those services by about five percent, leaving around $43,000 in funding that would have had to be split between the two groups but will now go directly to the YRC.
“There was no reason to have in today’s economy money funded into two groups that were servicing the same children,” said Sandi Kruel, a member of the Sag Harbor Board of Education who served as a liaison to YARD and now advises the YRC. “Our goal is to be able to reach out to more children 12 months a year.”
Since the organizations are still receiving grants from 2013 under their individual names, the collaboration will not be officially completed until January 1, 2014, at which point all new grants will be written in the name of the YRC. The organization had to purchase new insurance at the cost of about $10,000 in anticipation of collaboration and is hoping to cover that and other costs, such as after school snacks, buses, trips and other programs, with a strengthened fundraising campaign. In celebration of the official merger, the new YRC plans to host a fundraising event during HarborFrost.
“That was a heavy load for a small organization to take on,” explained Skinner of the insurance costs. “So that’s why we’ve had to up our fundraising efforts, just to pay for that and unfortunately it’s not something the kids can feel or see, it’s not a tangible thing.”
“But it will be tangible when we can rent a bus and take them on a Thanksgiving break to a movie,” continued Kruel. “The insurance now will allow us to do that.”
In addition to standing YARD programs such as the Summer Beach program and the After School program, which has seen up to 90 kids stop by in an afternoon, Skinner and Kruel are hopeful the merger will enable them to do more.
“We hope to bring back the school vacation trips we’ve done in the past,” said Skinner, who through YARD organized excursions such as visiting Splish Splash after the last day of school and taking family bus trips to Manhattan during Spring break.
Skinner will also receive training through the Suffolk County Youth Bureau to start a mentoring program. The YRC already has a list of about 12 kids who will participate on its new Youth Advisory Board, which will help plan various programs and organize a community project that is at present a secret but is expected to be revealed at the YRC’s inaugural event. The YRC is seeking new board members, as well as community members interested in helping plan and chaperone programs.
“We’re also looking for new parents that can offer new resources,” said Skinner. “Sag Harbor is so rich in resources from different people that could offer their knowledge to kids.”
Currently operating primarily out of the small community room used by YARD in Pierson Middle/High School, the YRC is hopeful that merging the organizations will help in their efforts to find freestanding space.
“I look at this as a very positive thing, I look at this as a fresh start,” said Skinner, to which Kruel added, “A new beginning.”