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Conversation with Debbie Skinner

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Deborah Skinner

Debbie Skinner, the Director of the Youth Advocacy and Resource Development Program, better known as YARD, took time out of her preparations for YARD’s annual silent auction to talk with the Express about how the organization is coping with recent cuts in government funding.

How has the Y.A.R.D Program been affected during this recession?

We are mostly funded by municipalities. In the past year we lost all of our East Hampton funding, most of our Suffolk County funding and just recently heard there will be a 10% cut from the new Southampton Town budget. Thankfully, the villages have remained strong and the School District stepped up to help keep the program afloat. Needless to say, we have had to step up our fundraising efforts. Actually, the Silent Auction is our one big fundraiser each year.

How will you work around the budget cuts?

It is time to re-evaluate the programs for attendance and redesign programs that may cost less. Some programs may be offered less frequently or for a shorter season. At the same time, I would like to . . . consider developing parent volunteer/ mentoring within some of the programs. Our Youth Board helps to steer the programs through what they would like to see offered, our YARD Board could use more parents volunteering their time.

What is the YARD Program?

Y.A.R.D., an acronym for “Youth Advocacy and Resource Development”, is a teen recreation program in existence for nearly 12 years. The program was designed to provide and develop “out-of-school” activities, events and bus trips at little to no cost to the children. It was the creation of [former] school superintendent John Barnes and Jerry Wawryk, who was the school board president at the time. I was hired by the school district before the summer of the first “Safe Summer Beach” program. Dr. Barnes’ office went after the original grants and I have followed up with the grant work since then.

What are some of the YARD Programs?

We are probably best known for the Beach Program, which takes place on Long Beach three nights each week throughout the summer. It is the most visible and our visiting summer guests are so grateful that their children get a chance to meet our Sag Harbor kids. In addition, the YARD program developed the proposal for the High School Sailing Program, contributed to the “Look / See” program at the Elementary School, run the Saturday Night Open Rec Program and All-Day Open Rec during Parent/Teacher Conference Days to name a few. We also bring in Cornell Cooperative Extension to teach the Babysitter’s Workshop and bring high school students to the East End Youth Leadership Summit. We offer bus trips during school vacations and most of the year you can find me in the Community Room after school program.

What do you have planned for this year’s Silent Auction?

We like to honor someone who has given their time or has been resourceful for youth advocacy. In the past, we have honored Jay Schneiderman, Joan Frisicano and this year we will honor Frank Venesina, a real supporter of the kids in Sag Harbor. Frank is a humble guy so I hope friends and family will come out and show him their appreciation. We will have over a hundred auction prizes, lots of door prizes, music, food and good energy. So often parents ask “How can I help out?”. I hope we will see [everyone] at B.Smith’s this Saturday night.
“Best of the Hamptons” a silent auction and cocktail party to Benefit Sag Harbor’s YARD Youth Recreation Program. 6 to 8:30 p.m. B. Smith’s Restaurant, Long Wharf, Sag Harbor. Dinner by the bite and music by Brad Beyer. Guest of honor will be Frank Venesina of Conca D’Ora. $25 in advance at 725-5302 ext. 750 or at the door.