Tag Archive | "The Retreat"

Jeffrey Friedman

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The new executive director for The Retreat on the effect of the economy on spousal abuse,rehabilitating offenders and the unfortunate need for his work.

How has your experience been at The Retreat so far?

It has been a very positive experience; the Retreat has a long, rich history of providing domestic violence services to the community. We have been providing domestic violence services to the community for over 20 years. It is such a valuable service to our community. If I could categorize our service I would say they would be transformative. The Retreat helps these women and children, in crises situations, leave with hope.

 

The budget for The Retreat is just over $2 million, your website says that over half of this is raised through individual contributions, how important are these individual contributions during the current economic recession and in the face of widespread state and local budget cuts?

What is important to say is that over the past 12 months we have seen an increase of about 40% in requests for services from women in crisis. We are seeing a drying up of local funding, and the money we fundraise from the community is so important. It allows us to continue offering these services to women and children in the community.

 

You said that you have seen an increase of about 40% in requests for services from women in crises. What services in particular have seen an increase in demand?

We have seen it across the board, what we have seen is that as the economic downturn continues we have seen domestic violence increase. When people are at risk of losing their jobs…it creates an environment conducive to family violence. The women that seek our services look for among other things counseling, legal advocacy and shelter.

 

There are a number of upcoming events to benefit The Retreat, how much financial support can be expected from these events?

I am glad you mentioned them; they are so important for us as an agency to allow us to sustain ourselves. What is coming up that is most exciting is the 14th Annual Artists Against Abuse event this June 27, our largest annual fundraiser, which will be hosted by Kelsey and Camille Grammer. It’s an art event and an art action, that’s held on the grounds of the Ross School. People can bid on art from local and renowned artists. All this information is on our web site.

 

SHARP (Structured Help Anti-violence Re-education Program) is a counseling service for men who have had a history of abusive tendencies, how important do you believe this counseling is?  

I think it is extremely important in trying to fulfill our mission. Part of our mission statement is trying to break the cycle of family violence. In order to accomplish this we need to provide some of our services to that part of the population. We try to work with them through support groups and counseling.

 

In your experience does this reform and rehabilitation prevent the possibility of repeat offenders?

Well you certainly see a large percent of offenders repeating, but we have seen some offenders stop. The program does work. These offenders can develop healthy, violence-free relationships.

 

Are there any unexpected challenges that you have come across in your new position?

I wouldn’t say it is unexpected, but the challenge we are always facing, and now in particular, is the severe economic crisis. We are facing a situation we have not seen since the Great Depression. This directly affects non-profits in a real, concrete way, when donations are down and funding gets cut…it is very scary to think about someone in a crisis situation getting abused who cannot get help.

 

 

Is The Retreat applying for grants from the Federal Stimulus Package recently passed by Congress?

We are applying for stimulus money. We have a couple of grant applications in to access funds.

 

What facet of The Retreat do you believe is the most important?

The most important is that we are the only domestic violence shelter on the East End. We don’t take one approach to domestic violence we take multiple approaches. It is important that we provide shelter, counseling and advocacy to people in crises.

 

The Retreat opened locally in 1987 and later expanded to cover the entire East End in 1995, as the new Executive Director do you see further opportunity for geographic expansion?

I think for right now we are a community based organization. Our focus right now is to provide comprehensive coverage to the East End. We are located out here and our real focus is to serve the people of our community. We do get referral cases from out of state, we get calls from other parts of Long Island. We do provide services to anybody in need.

 

Are there any new directions you would like to take The Retreat as Executive Director?

The services we provide are essential, but we need to find and secure funding for transitional services. On average people stay in our shelter for 90 days, once they leave…it’s very expensive to find a place and live on Long Island. We need to find funding for six-month transitional housing, and get them hooked up with vocational training. We need to help these women be more independent and live a life with less stress. Ninety days is really a quick time table and we need to find a time table that is a little bit longer. 

 

Entreaty for The Retreat

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Like flood insurance and a good lawyer, there are those things in life that we all hope we will never need, but are nonetheless glad to have nearby in the event that we ever find ourselves in a difficult situation.

The Retreat is another one of those things. As the East End’s only not-for-profit facility serving the victims of domestic abuse, The Retreat not only houses women and children escaping from an abusive home but offers legal advice and emotional support as well during their ordeal.

As of late, while many East End businesses have seen a decline, The Retreat, unfortunately, is experiencing no such shortage of customers — 2008 is turning out to be one of the busiest in recent memory. The shelter is full and calls for help on the facility’s hotline and requests for information and assistance have skyrocketed as a direct result of the inevitable stresses brought on working families by reduction in available work and rising costs.

And to add to the woes, The Retreat expects to see much of its public funding slashed severely as local municipalities struggle to get their own economic houses in order. This is funding that is crucial to the operation of the facility which gets the rest of its funding through private donations. Right now, The Retreat is looking at a $32,000 cut in county funding, $2,000 less from Southampton Town and the loss of its entire $10,000 in funding from East Hampton. On the private donations side of the ledger, The Retreat is down $100,000 and climbing.

While we know there are a lot of non-profit organizations facing funding cuts this go around, we are particularly concerned about those facing The Retreat. There are simply no other options available anywhere on the East End for those who need to escape from an abusive and potentially dangerous situations. So while municipalities may try to tell us that in this economic climate they simply cannot afford to fund The Retreat, we would like to counter that in this economic climate they simply cannot afford not to.

Leaving an abusive situation is an extraordinarily difficult thing for victims to do, especially if they are not financially independent. Imagine how much more difficult such a decision would be for a victim of abuse on the East End who could not count on The Retreat for shelter and support. What would happen to that person? You can only wonder.

Which is why we’re asking that all municipalities rethink their decision to cut funding to the valuable and critical community resource. We would especially ask that East Hampton Town, the very town where The Retreat’s offices are located, reconsider the devastating elimination of their entire $10,000 aid package to the center, and we implore our state representatives to do what they can to ensure state funding is not further slashed as the budget moves towards its third round of cuts.

After all, no one knows who among us might need The Retreat’s services next, and without it residents of five towns on the East End will be left out in the cold, with no where to turn away from the violence. 

The Retreat Tries To Dodge Deep Cuts

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In the five East End towns, there is only one place for the victims of domestic violence – often women and children – to turn to for shelter, legal advice and support in an effort to build the strength to move on from what are often turbulent and violent home lives. For over 20 years, The Retreat, which is based in East Hampton but serves the entire East End, has offered that very support to scores of families, as well as preventative education to the community at large.

However, this year, the not-for-profit has struggled, looking at a 2008 fiscal year deficit, and despite grant and funding sources drying up, demand for services at The Retreat is growing at alarming rates. In an effort to not cut services the organization provides, The Retreat is hoping funding sources come through for 2009 – a year they anticipate will unfortunately be marked by the same increases in domestic violence as the economy continues in a downward trend.

“When guys lose their jobs they can strike out,” explained Retreat educator Elizabeth Yennie to the Southampton Town Board last week. This week Yennie said while it may not be a normal reaction to lash out and seek power over a spouse or child when that control is no longer available at the workplace, it can be the root of domestic violence.

“Stress doesn’t cause domestic violence,” said Yennie. “But domestic violence can be exacerbated by stress.”

As of September 2007, The Retreat had provided counseling to 997 people, gave criminal justice support and advocacy for 190 victims, gave personal advocacy for specific victims 871 times and provided information and referrals for 1606 individuals for the year. But as of this September, some of those numbers have grown dramatically.

So far, in 2008, The Retreat has provide counseling to 1487 individuals, provided criminal justice support and advocacy for 334 victims, gave personal advocacy for specific victims 1,124 times and has provided information and referrals to some 2,165 people. In 2007, Retreat volunteers and staff made 40 hospital, home or off site visits to aid their clients. In 2008, the number has already reached 126. While the organization’s 18-bed shelter has on average operated at 87 percent capacity, according to Sag Harbor resident and Retreat educator Elizabeth Yennie this year the shelter has been at 100 percent capacity.

And despite the increased demand for services, which coincides with the troubled economy, The Retreat is looking at cuts in funding from a number of municipal sources as well as a decrease in donations from individual donors. All this, coupled with a $190,000 deficit for 2008, and an additional five percent loss projected in 2009, translates into The Retreat putting its administrative offices on Goodfriend Drive in East Hampton on the market to ensure the shelter does not have to cut more services than it already has, Retreat board president Richard Demato said.

According to The Retreat’s development director Jennifer Palmer, the organization is looking at a $32,000 cut in county funding due to budget cuts made on the state level. This, she added, does not include a third round of anticipated cuts to Governor David Paterson’s proposed budget. The Town of Southampton has slashed $2,000 in grant assistance, a portion of what it has traditionally provided to The Retreat. In the Town of East Hampton, funding to The Retreat was cut completely, to the tune of $10,000.

Funding is also down, to the tune of $100,000, in private donations – a big hit, said Palmer, when looking at a $2 million annual budget.

Yennie has approached both boards, pleading with them to reconsider the funding, which also supports the education programs The Retreat offers for elementary school to high school aged students as a preventative measure. With the national and local economy shaky at best, Yennie said she expects demand for The Retreat services will only continue to grow as stress and substance abuse associated with difficult financial times triggers domestic violence in those who already had a propensity for abuse.

“I have been here for five years and I have never seen a jump like this,” said Yennie. “Normally, I try not to answer hotline calls because we leave that to the trained advocate, but I have been answering hotline calls, simply because we are receiving so many more.”

The Retreat had employed three legal advocates in 2007, said Demato, but in August 2008, looking at a dramatic decrease in funding, The Retreat had to cut that to two, despite the need for more services was already apparent.

“We need to find some angels to help see us through,” said Demato. “We don’t want to have to go to one advocate.”

Other cuts have already been made to a program designed to get victims back on their feet through career counseling and GED education services in an overall transition program.

 “It’s really hard,” said Demato, breaking down with tears in his eyes. “I don’t understand it … we are the only place for women and children out here. I just don’t know how they can cut all funding across the board without taking that into account. It makes no sense.” 

 Top photo: The Retreat’s Goodfriend Drive, East Hampton administrative offices may be put on the market as the organization battles increased costs and reduced funding. Middle photo: Key Retreat personnel Elizabeth Yennie, Jennifer Critcher, Richard Demato and Jennifer Palmer are doing what they can to ensure services don’t need to be cut at the East End’s only resource for the victim’s of domestic violence.                        k menu photos

East Hampton Residents Lobby Town Board to Fund Youth Programming

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 Finding a parking space at East Hampton Town Hall on Tuesday morning was difficult at best as dozens of residents crowded a hearing on the proposed 2009 budget, many calling for the board to reinstate funding for youth recreation and cultural programs. A number of programs have seen severe cuts in grant assistance from the town as it tries to meander through creating a budget in the face of a multi-million dollar deficit.

Under the newly released proposed 2009 budget, residents in the Town of East Hampton are looking down the barrel of a 22-percent tax increase, up from the 18-percent tax increase presented in the tentative $67 million budget. According to East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee, the increase comes despite the fact the town board made some $250,000 in cuts from the tentative budget, in part due to a contractual obligation to fund the East Hampton YMCA RECenter. The RECenter is slated to receive $600,000, down from just over $700,000. The town had originally cut funding to the RECenter before realizing it had another year in its obligation to fund the facility to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

McGintee added that increases in the proposed budget have also been made in estimated salary increases for police officers, and debt service on loans the town is paying back to cover a projected debt that could reach as high as $12 million by the end of 2009.

But on Tuesday, October 28, town hall was packed with residents more concerned with the lack of funding for programs geared towards the youth of East Hampton. While their voices made up a majority of the pleas uttered during the hearing, a number of residents also decried the proposed tax increases, calling for a stop to the conversion of a number of historic homes into a new town hall, as well as asking for a hiring freeze – some even going as far to say that jobs should be cut.

In the proposed budget over $120,000 has been cut in grant assistance from the town to organizations like local chambers of commerce, school parent teacher organizations, the East Hampton Day Care, Guild Hall and The Retreat, to name a few. Virtually all the groups had representation at the hearing, many pointing out to the board that their funding is limited, coming from the town, through fundraising and dues, and through minimal grants from the county and state.

Ruth Appelhof, executive director of Guild Hall, was the first to speak, urging the board to reconsider its decision to cut financing to the theatre and gallery, which has operated in the town for some 77 years. Appelhof noted Guild Hall prides itself on its educational outreach to the 11 schools in the Town of East Hampton, which in part was funded through the original $17,000 the town granted to the cultural institution. In the last three years, noted Appelhof, funding has decreased to $15,000, but this year, in the face of possibly receiving no assistance from the town, Appelhof said she was very concerned about the future of programs like drama literacy, Art Link, the Student Arts Festival and Word Up, a four week workshop for children with special needs in the town.

“We have 40,000 people come to Guild Hall every year and there is no one more important than the kids of our community,” said Appelhof.

“I am against the size of this tax increase,” said resident, businessman and volunteer fireman Michael Forst plainly. “I am against cutting any child related services.”

Forst said the East Hampton community was just beginning to feel the impact of the worldwide financial crisis, and the budget needs to be looked at critically and cut wherever possible to limit the size of a tax increase this year. Forst said, “… government needs to shrink,” and went as far to say that may mean jobs need to be cut. 

“I am here today to cry for help,” said Jennifer Wilson, a single mom of two young daughters and a board member of the East Hampton Day Care.

The day care center is looking at a 25 percent decrease in assistance from $100,000 to $75,000. Wilson noted that the center provides care to those who pay tuition and those who cannot afford it, offering education, recreation and breakfast and lunch. Wilson added that with the economic crisis likely to hit home, the day care center will be an even more essential necessity for residents in the town of East Hampton, many of whom will not be able to afford private child care.

“So I am asking for help on behalf of the smallest members of our community,” she said.

Thomas Quinn, superintendent of The Springs School, spoke on behalf of Project Most – a popular after school program for children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade held at a number of schools in the town – and the town’s youth court program, both of which are looking at funding cuts.

“Project Most is an essential program at Springs School,” said Quinn, noting the after school program has grown to serve over 100 children and while the school does set aside money to fund the service, it needs assistance from the town.

The youth court, added Quinn, whose own children have been a part of, is also a crucial program, providing children the opportunity to learn about the justice system, as well as the effect of one’s actions on the community at large.

Debbie Skinner, director of the Youth Advocacy Resource Development (YARD) program, which was founded a decade ago by Sag Harbor School District administration and school board to provide programming for at risk youth, also approached the board in hopes of having that program’s funding reinstated through the $5,000 grant the town usually provides to the Pierson PTSA.

“I just have to take a deep breath because I know what [the board] is going through,” said Laraine Creegan, director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce. Creegan noted the importance of the chamber of commerce in bringing tourism – a major source of the region’s economy – to the area. Revenues are increased, she noted, in the number of people the chambers entice to the town each season through advertising and events.

“It is essential for the chamber to market the East End,” she said, noting a majority of the chamber’s funding actually comes from fundraising and dues.

While a number of speakers were at the hearing on behalf of organizations, another group of residents offered their opinions on what the town can do to keep tax increases at a minimum.

Amagansett resident Robert Wick advocated that the town eliminate the autumn leaf pick up program, which would save about half a million dollars a year. While the leaf pick up program is in place for this season, Wick said the Montauk and Amagansett Citizen Advisory Committees have both agreed it should be eliminated in the future. Wick noted mowing leaves back into a lawn is actually healthier for the grass.

“The East Hampton Business Alliance is deeply concerned about budget issues,” said a solemn Margaret Turner. Turner charged the town has overspent and has not been open or public in its budget process. She said independent, competent budget advisors were necessary in the town, and called for an immediate freeze on hiring, with the exception of “a qualified business administrator.” Turner also suggested overtime be eliminated, as well as salary raises and asked the town move forward in a fashion where it incurs less legal expenses.

East Hampton Town resident Joe Lombardi added he would like to see spending frozen on all historic projects, including the town hall project, which drew applause from the audience. He also said the pool of town vehicles should be reduced, the town should start charging fees for outdoor events on the town beaches and land preservation should cease.

“I love hiking in our beautiful trails, but enough is enough … we can always go and buy land when we have enough funds,” he said.

The town board will continue to accept written comments on the budget through November 4, said board member Pete Hammerle, and will discuss all comments on the spending plan at its Thursday, November 6 meeting. 

 

East End Digest – October 23

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Carvers’ Carnival

The Bridgehampton Lions Club will host its pumpkin carving contest on Monday, October 27 at 5 p.m., rain or shine, at the Bridgehampton Community House with a performance by Liz Joyce’s Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre expected. All carving should be done in advance and lighting for jack-o-lanterns must be provided by the carver. In addition to the traditional Classic Jack and Classic Jill categories, the carving contest will also award prizes to gourds carved in themes like Pulp Politico, Sea Screecher, Mother Groosesome and Freaky Tiki. For more information, visit bridgehamptonlions.org.

photo by john musnicki

New York State Assembly: Calling for Compliance

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. released a copy of a letter this week that he has sent to six petroleum companies informing them of New York’s new law on the prohibition of zone pricing on gasoline sales. The letter was sent to Exxon Mobil, Hess, Citgo, Sunoco, Gulf Oil and Shell Oil Company.

“I wanted to take the opportunity to inform these companies that New York has taken steps to protect its residents and motorists from artificially high gasoline prices,” said Thiele. “Although we are seeing a national downward trend in prices, I am hopeful they will comply and motorists, especially on the East End, will see prices that are more comparable with retailers located further west.”

In his letter, dated October 16, Thiele writes, “As a result, there has been a movement statewide to eliminate zone pricing. It has affected other areas of the state and is having the same result on New York’s motorists. While I can appreciate and respect your position in operating a private business, entrepreneurs cannot continue to monetarily penalize individuals who must rely on personal transportation on a daily basis.”

Southampton: Preserves Bullhead Bay

After a century and a half of continuous ownership, the Corwin Family’s 19th century estate on Bullhead Bay has passed into the protection of Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Program, according to Supervisor Linda Kabot.

Consisting of 21.7 acres of pristine property, the land is located at the southwest corner of West Neck Road and Millstone Brook Road and lies within the Little Sebonac Creek Target Area. The vicinity is so designated by the Town’s Community Preservation Project Plan, which identifies areas and properties for acquisition for park, recreation, open space, and conservation purposes. Known for its marshes, inter-tidal creeks, wetlands, and oak-heath woods, Little Sebonac Creek “plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the Peconic Bay,” said Kabot.

Because of its environmental significance and abundant acreage, the parcel has been on the town’s preservation “wish list” for some time, having undergone appraisals, public hearings, and an authorizing resolution approved in August. Earlier in the year, the land was part of a 28.8-acre parcel, but owner Tim Corwin of Southampton subdivided the latter and retained 7.1 acres with existing residences and accessory structures.

At the time of the public hearing over whether to authorize the land’s purchase, Corwin told the town board the family did not want to sell to developers, but found the increasing property tax burden too much to bear. With its sale to the town for $6,000,000, the property will remain perpetually protected.

East End Women: Obama: Take Two

On Sunday, October 26 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. women from all over the East End will meet at 1 Tradesman’s Path at Butter Lane in Bridgehampton in a show of support for Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy for President of the United States. Several women will be interviewed on Sunday at the event, titled “East End Women for Obama: Take II,” and during the next week videographer Phillipe Cheng will host one-to-one interviews during which the participants will tell their personal stories about how they think an Obama presidential administration will change their lives, and what this historic moment would mean to them.

This is the second event of its kind for East End women. Close to 500 women fathered on a moment’s notice for an earlier rally on September 21 at the Topping Farm in East Hampton to show support for the candidacy of Obama and vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, and to demonstrate that the nomination of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket did not automatically garner female support towards that ticket. For more information on the event, call Linda Shapiro at 329-5480.

Southampton Town: Recognizing Employees

Stepping out of the budget spotlight of the past few weeks, Southampton Town Board members turned their attention from tax rates, revenue projections, and surplus allocations to momentarily recognize two employees and the charitable efforts of a women’s health organization.

After a brief introduction from Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, Justice Tom DeMayo took to the podium “in grateful acknowledgement” of court employees Ana Garcia and Mark Sidor. Justice DeMayo praised Garcia’s Spanish-translation ability as an “invaluable asset” to the court, while Sidor’s 25 years of experience as Chief Court Officer have made him a fixture there.

“As elected officials, we can have goals and lead by example, but it is our dedicated staff members that truly deserve the credit for helping us get there,” said Kabot. “These are the individuals that deal directly with the public and give residents their first, and sometimes only, impression of town government.”

The day’s events also included a visit from representatives of Southampton Hospital and Katie Diamond of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Earlier this year, the latter group held a “Super Saturday” fundraiser, and donated $35,000 of the proceeds to the hospital. Among those present to receive the check were Southampton Hospital CEO Bob Chaloner, as well as Community Relations Director and former Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor, Robert Ross.

A national non-profit group, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund’s mission is to fund research for early detection methods and ultimately a cure for ovarian cancer.

East Hampton: Retreat Event

In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month The Retreat is holding a wine and cheese event at Paumanok Vineyards in Aqueboque, on Thursday, October 23 from 6 to 8 p.m.

The Retreat is the only non-profit domestic violence agency serving the East End. The event is $50 per person and includes various award-winning Paumanok wines and an assortment of cheeses. 

To buy tickets for this event call 329-4398.

Statistics show that incidents of domestic abuse rise during times of financial stress and considering the toll the recent economy has taken on average American families, this is a difficult time for many. During the first week of October, which happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The Retreat’s residential shelter showed an occupancy rate of 100 percent. In 2007, the average shelter occupancy rate was 86 percent. Within the last month, The Retreat’s clients for non-residential services (legal advocacy, counseling, support groups and hotline calls) have dramatically increased. Unfortunately and ironically, while abuse increases in times of financial stress, the donations that the agency relies on to provide their services, often decline.

Southampton & East Hampton: Budget Hearings

The Southampton Town Board has scheduled two public hearings on the 2009 preliminary budget and the 2008-2017 Capital Program on Friday, October 24, at 1 p.m. and Tuesday, October 28, at 6 p.m. at Southampton Town Hall. The East Hampton Town Board has also scheduled its own budget hearing for its proposed 2009 spending plan. It will be held at East Hampton Town Hall on Tuesday, October 28 at 10:30 a.m.

The Southampton Town proposed budget is available on line at www.southamptontownny.gov and in the office of the town clerk. That town’s proposed budget is approximately $82.5 million and according to Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot’s office the preliminary tax rate is $1.32 per $1,000 assessed valuation, which is a five percent tax rate increase over 2008 and 2007.

In East Hampton, copies of the proposed budget are available for review at the town clerk’s office. That town has proposed a spending plan of $67 million for the 2009 fiscal year. The proposed budget represents an almost $8 million drop from the approved 2008 budget of $75 million, however, town residents are still looking at a tax increase of 18 percent, with those living in the village looking at a 28 percent tax increase.