Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Youth Center"

Visibility Counts-02/09/2012

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It’s only February, but already “belt tightening” seems to be emerging as the phrase of the year. Looming on our horizon for 2012 is the state-imposed two-percent tax cap levy on schools and municipalities, a county budget with a sizeable shortfall and a federal deficit that … well, we leave that one for another day.

The point is, in times like these, it’s a good idea to keep your head low and stay out of the cross hairs — especially if you’re a small non-profit organization that relies on public money to survive.

This week, we write about the YARD program and the Sag Harbor Youth Center, both of which provide an after school haven for the youth of the village and both of which have traditionally received funding from the county.

While in the past, this arrangement worked fine, that is not the case this year. Looking to preserve as much county money for youth programs in Sag Harbor as he could, our county legislator Jay Schneiderman, was forced to choose between the two similar programs. In the end, he chose to eliminate the $14,500 the county had budgeted for YARD in the past, rather than sacrifice the larger dollar amount — $48,177 — that goes to the youth center.

Schneiderman points out that his decision was based purely on a motive of preserving the greatest number of dollars he could for Sag Harbor youth — not on the merits (or lack thereof) of either program. He is now pursuing another source of funding to make up for some of YARD’s lost income for the year, but he noted the reality of the situation is this — the county is going to continually be forced to cut back on this sort of spending in the future.

One thing is certain, going forward the county will no longer be able to offer the same level of funding it has in the past to organizations that offer similar services. Instead, it’s likely legislators like Schneiderman will be required to choose between groups, and it’s likely that his or her choice will be to keep as many dollars as possible in the community.

Like we said in this space last week, in times like these it’s important to share resources and reduce budgets through collaborative efforts. The youth center and YARD now must start those discussions and see what can be done. Since both organizations offer an after school program, perhaps a solution can be found if the lesser attended program is eliminated and the money used to operate it is redirected into creating new programming that doesn’t duplicate current services. Special field trips, outdoor activities or community service projects are just some examples of what could be offered.

There’s another reason to eliminate duplication and think outside the box when it comes to offering new youth programming — and that is visibility. As municipalities make ever deepening cuts in non-profit funding, being able to point to an organization and demonstrate what it has done for the community will be vital.

In addition to publicizing all the events they have coming up through press releases to local newspapers and flyers sent home to parents, both organizations should work toward designing their own websites with a detailed explanation of activities, hours of operation, age of the children served and mission statements clearly explained. Photos of kids having fun and testimonials from parents are also a good way to draw interest and raise awareness.

And raising awareness, we feel, is going to be paramount in budget cycles ahead. What will the county be looking at when it’s deciding who is to be funded next year? Having something substantial to show them is not a bad idea. It would be a shame to see Sag Harbor’s youth miss out on well deserved funding because an up island organization happens to have a better PR person or web designer.

Times are tough. For many groups, the time has come not only to collaborate, but think competitively. You know plenty of other groups are already doing that.

Centers Merge to Serve Youth

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In November 2008, Julie Froelich believed the Sag Harbor Youth Center would have to close its doors. The Suffolk County Youth Bureau and other local municipalities planned to cut the center’s funding for 2009 by 25 to 50 percent, said Froelich, the director of the center. Froelich was sure the decreased funding was an insurmountable obstacle.

 One day, she reflected on the history of the center and realized she wasn’t in a position to close it.

 “I thought to myself, ‘How can I close this center? This isn’t mine to close,’” said Froelich. “The center existed before me. It has to exist after me.”

 The Sag Harbor Youth Center officially opened in the 1970s, but Froelich said it has operated on an informal basis since the 1950s. The center has moved around the village throughout the years, and was previously located in the storefront adjacent to the movie theater, the current Provisions building and in the Schiavoni building which was recently demolished as part of the gas ball remediation project on West Water Street.

 In recent years, the center has operated from a small storefront on Division Street just south of the intersection with Bay Street. But Froelich explains that with almost half of the center’s budget being used to pay the rent, she knew the center would need to relocate again in order to continue operation.

 So Froelich soon devised a plan to save the center.

 She recalled an article she read on the recently established Chris Grimbol Center for East End Adolescents at the Old Whalers’ Church, started by Pastor Bill Grimbol of Shelter Island.

 “We had the kids, but we needed a center — and he already had a center but needed kids to come to it,” said Froelich. She approached Grimbol about merging the two centers and he was very receptive to the idea. Rev. Grimbol and Froelich bonded over a shared vision of how their organizations can help struggling teens.

 “I found we had the same basic philosophy of how kids deal with stress and jump through life’s hurdles,” said Froelich. “There is tremendous competition out there and [teenagers] often struggle to find their niche. Kids will make mistakes … but we hope they can talk to us before they make big decisions.”

 “I want to be a person they can come to and feel comfortable talking with,” she said.

 Rev. Grimbol and Froelich soon secured a part-time location at the Old Whalers’ Church and worked out a schedule. The newly named Chris Grimbol/Sag Harbor Youth center will operate from Friday through Sunday at the church, and Froelich hopes the program will officially commence on April 1. As Froelich and Grimbol ironed out the logistics of the program, they designed a few educational classes for the 10 to 18-years-old who currently frequent the Sag Harbor Youth Center. The classes to be offered include Samaritan Project, which will encourage teens to volunteer at local homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and the Green Project, where teens devise ways to make the village more eco-friendly. Froelich is particularly proud of Project Excel, a program assisting older teens in the pre-college process.

 “We want to walk them through it from start to finish,” said Froelich of the class.

 These classes will be offered exclusively on Saturdays. The center will continue to offer a drop-in recreation and activity room, from Friday through Monday, from the church’s youth room on the second floor. All of the equipment, including the televisions, video games, pool table and air hockey table, will be moved to this new location.

 On Sundays, Rev. Grimbol will offer his “Dinner Dialogue” series, where high school students can come together to share a meal and listen to a presentation on various issues associated with growing up.

 The merged program is likely to draw a lot of attention from local youths. The Sag Harbor Youth Center currently serves almost 50 to 100 youths a month, and local teenagers have already told Froelich they are more likely to visit the new location because it is conveniently located near the school.